By Verónica Toro
Translated by Nyima Bieber
February 14th for couples and friends to show their affection with cards, flowers, balloons, chocolates, sweets, and little notes of love.
In thinking of all the symbols that “invade” us on this holiday, the following questions arose: Why Valentine’s Day?, Where did this celebration come from?, What is its meaning?
The traditional celebration has its origin in Anglo-Saxon countries; St. Valentine, a native of Terni (100 km from Rome), was a priest beloved by his people, due to the miracles he performed. He lived in the time when Emperor Claudius II was in power. The emperor decided to ban marriage for young people as he felt they would be better served by devoting themselves to military life instead of marriage. The priest did not find this decision appropriate, so he performed weddings in secret, while promoting Christianity.
History tells us that when the priest was discovered, one of the emperor’s guards challenged him to return the sight of his daughter who was born blind; the priest fulfilled his request and from that moment on, faith was reaffirmed and the number of Christian believers began to increase.
In spite of this, Claudius II ordered the execution of the priest on February 14th of the year 270, killing him at night and in secret to avoid the reaction of the town where he was born. The young Julia, who had regained her sight, planted flowers by his grave. It was here that the flowers we give today as a representation of love and friendship gained their significance, and here that St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers.
Roman mythology also plays an important role in this festive holiday. Cupid is the god of desire, son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty and fertility.
We commonly see Cupid as a winged boy with a bow and arrows for shooting humans and making them fall in love. On occasions, his eyes are blindfolded, showing that “love is blind“. The arrows he carries on his back are different and each has a specific use: the golden arrows with feathers cause instant love while the lead arrows with owl feathers cause indifference.
Young Roman men and women used to seek out partners around the middle of the month of February during special events. When these parties were prohibited, men began to send love letters to available ladies on February 14th.
Now that we know a little more about the origins of this romantic day, we are now left to enjoy the gifts and allow ourselves to be pampered by those around us!