Thursday, February 14, 2013

Let's talk about Love

Well it is Valentine's Day! That amazing day when we celebrate being in love, or wanting to be in love. Contrary to popular belief, Valentine's Day was not invented by a florist, chocolatier, or a card maker. Much like other religious festivals, Valentine's Day has become commercialised, though this is not a particularly recent thing. The sending of Valentine's dates back probably to the 1300's.

St Valentine (Bassano)
The Christian calendar is made up of a number of festivals and feast days of saints. Some are more commonly known than others, others haven't a fixed date each year, and some days celebrate more than one saint. St Valentine's is annually celebrated on 14th February. At least that is the date for the Western branch of the Christian Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Valentine's on 6th July. It's bizarre that the same religion should have denominations which can't agree on specific dates to celebrate their martyrs or even important festivals. You'd have thought an issue such as the resurrection would bind all Christians together, but in 2013 Easter Sunday is March 31st in the west, and Sunday May 5th in the east

Frank Dicksee's Pre Raphaelite classic, Belle Dame Sans Merci

Anyway, I'm not going to get into a religion bashing post. I'm actually interested in the history of Valentine's Day, the Western version celebrated on 14th February. There is quite some information on him, and due to excavations in Rome which have unearthed a catacomb and a Church dedicated to him, it is assumed that he was a real person. Valentine was sainted and given his feast day of February 14th as that was the day he was allegedly killed. He is supposed to have cured his jailor's daughter of blindness, and on the eve of his execution, wrote her a letter signed, "From Your Valentine".  Valentine may have been a Priest who performed illegal Christian weddings in pre Christian Rome, which would explain why he was in prison. This isn't the whole story, but it's pretty romantic so I guess it fits the bill.

So he was martyred on 14th February 269 AD in Rome. He is the patron saint of betrothed couples, but so much more. Valentine is also patron saint of bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers and young people. Quite a diverse patronage! But then again, "Love is a many splendored thing"!
Shakespeare's Star Cross'd Lovers, Romeo and Juliet

Happy Valentine's to you all whether you are seeking love, are with you absolute soul mate, or anywhere between.

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