Captain's Cabin

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Myth Monday: Valentines Day

Like many current secular holidays, Valentines Day has it' roots in the Christian Religion, where it began as a feast day to St. Valentine, replacing the Pagan holiday of Lupercalia.

Valentine's Day started in the time of the Roman Empire as a pagan holiday. In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia.

Valentines Day #7

The lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate. However, one of the customs of the young people was name drawing. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl's name from the jar and would then be partners for the duration of the festival with the girl whom he chose. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.

The pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavored to do away with the pagan element in the feasts by substituting the name of a saint. As the Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine's Day for the celebration of this new feast. So it seems that the custom of young men choosing maidens for valentines, or saints as patrons for the coming year, arose in this way.

Valentines Day #4

At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under date of 14 February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and these two seem both to have suffered in the second half of the third century and to have been buried on the Flaminian Way, but at different distances from the city. In William of Malmesbury's time what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian Gate of Rome and is now the Porta del Popolo, was called the Gate of St. Valentine. The name seems to have been taken from a small church dedicated to the saint which was in the immediate neighborhood. Of both these St. Valentines some sort of Acta are preserved but they are of relatively late date and of no historical value. Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.

The most popular legend regarding why Valentine was picked for the patron Saint of the day has to do with a St. Valentine (one of the three mentioned above), a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it "From Your Valentine". Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor St. Valentine.

Valentines Day #2

The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day are explained by Catholics as having their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer's Parliament of Foules we read:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers' tokens. In this way that managed to remove references to the pagan Lupercalia. Both the French and English literatures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the practice. Perhaps the earliest to be found is in the 34th and 35th Ballades of the bilingual poet, John Gower, written in French; but Lydgate and Clauvowe supply other examples. Those who chose each other under these circumstances seem to have been called by each other their Valentines.

It should be noted that other animals, not just birds, start to mate around the middle of February. This allows for a gestation period of six to eight week, so that in many cases the young will be be born in the spring, when food is plentiful. It also allows for over six months of growth before kittens and other young must face their first winter.

(We are currently living with several marauding Toms who keep coming to my house to sing the "Let's Make Kittens" song even though I cannot make kittens anymore.)

Valentines Day #3

Hundreds of years ago in England, many children dressed up as adults on Valentine's Day. They went singing from home to home. One verse they sang was:

Good morning to you, valentine;
Curl your locks as I do mine ---
Two before and three behind.
Good morning to you, valentine.

In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favorite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, "You unlock my heart!"

In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for one week. To wear your heart on your sleeve now means that it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling.

Currently, St. Valentine's Day has become more of a greeting card holiday than anything. Most current members of the Catholic religion do not even attend church to honor the saint, but many of them will buy a card and perhaps a gift for that special someone in their lives.

Many schools allow the exchanging of cards and candies among children on these days with inexpensive cards commercial available at most stores. While it used to be that children were urged to make handmade cards for those they liked in class, some children felt left out when they received no cards, or when their efforts were not appreciated by those who received them, so it is now more customary for a child to send a valentine to everyone in their class.

While love is often celebrated in established relationships during this day, new relationships sometimes grow when one receives a card or gift from a secret admirer.

Valentines Day #1

If you are looking for something creative to do with Valentine's Day, you might visit and check out their 28 Creative Love Letter Ideas to help add some zing into your love life. the side also features ideas, advice, ecards, lovescopes, and a gift shop.

For feline Valentine's day fun, visit Who do you Love? and Skeezix VD Contest 2008. If you don't have a special someone, you might want to place an ad at Single Kitties Love Cafe to help you find that special someone.

Valentines Day #6

I myself have two Valentines, my special online furrriend Snarf who I have been Pikadating for 7 months now, and my real life Mancat furriend Reptar. There is also a very handsome mancat on the Cat Blogosphere that I admire greatly. I do not think he has a special ladycat in his life, so purrrhaps I will send him a secret admirer valentines. Can you guess who it might be?


Tara said...

That was very interesting Diamond, and I love the pictures of you. Also, its cool you are on Blogger now!


Parker said...

Diamond - that was great! But I want to know who this lucky mancat is!!!

Ramses said...

Oh wow you know lots about Valentines day! :)

-d ma said...

Great information as always. But what in the heck are you wearing?

I used to love valentines day in grade school because I would always pick out the most frilly card to give to my first crush, Tracy Siegfried.

Cheysuli and gemini said...

Wow, you have gotten a lot of Valentines and have so many choices!

Cat-a-holic, Lilly and Laila said...

WHOA! Valentine's Day overload...we luvs it! You look very Valentinish.

Trixie said...

Very interesting history of Valentine's Day. Who is the lucky mancat Diamond?

Daisy said...

I cannot guess who the Mancat could be. A hint, please?

Diamond, you are looking extremely glamorous in those fancy feathers!

jan said...

What a beautiful history this day has. But our biped says that today it is mostly about buying stuff and guilt if you don't.Our human tends to be cynical. A lot of diamonds are sold for the occasion...not you...the hard stones that people wear for some reason that we will never understand.

Watch out for mancats. They are up to no good.

Misty the alpha Poodle

Tybalt said...

Diamond, that was another great post. You look even better in a feather boa than I do!

Oh, I cannot guess who the lucky mancat could be . . . . hints?

Chance said...

Wow, yoo wook vewy pwetty in yur pyctoors. An yur fetters luk lyke lotsa funs ta pway wit too.


Kellie The Orange Cat said...

Diamond, I love the pink boa - very fashionable. Thank you for all the information, you are so knowledgeable.

I liked the final outcome of your art piece, very nice.

PB & J said...

That was very cool Diamond and you look so very festive too!

MoMo said...

You always write something well researched and interesting. I come here to be educated.

You look really stunning in those photos and that shade really brings out your beauty. Lots of Valentine things there, are they all presents?

Spooker said...

Wow, that was lots of info! You're so smart, as well as beautiful!
I love how you look so good in your pretty collars. I think Not The Mama might lose a hand if he tried to get me to wear one like that.

Gandalf & Grayson said...

Witha name like Snarf, he's got to be good!

Mickey said...

That was a super post.It is always neat to know how customs got started :)
Who is your Mancat Valentine????
Huh? Huh?
Purrs Mickey

Zippy, Sadie and Speedy said...

Wow diamond, yoo know lots of stuff. Can we get a hint about dis mancat yoo haf yoor eye on?

Gattina said...

Very interesting, I also wrote about Valentine's day last year because I was so curious to know where this feast really came from.
I love your picture in this Valentine's "mess" lol ! and this red collar suits you really well !

Sunny's Mommy said...

Diamond, you look amazing in those photos. You're so glamorous and stunningly beautiful :-)