American Elephants


More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About St.Valentine’s Day by The Elephant's Child
February 15, 2020, 12:29 am
Filed under: Heartwarming, History, Humor, Politics | Tags: , ,

What an odd holiday Valentine’s Day is! Stopped by Safeway on the way home, and the store was festooned with Valentine’s Day balloons, and of course, all sorts of flowers, and lots of candy, preferably in red heart boxes for those busy gentlemen on their way home who didn’t dare arrive empty handed.

Online at home, I was startled by this picture  at Powerline blog. Took me right back to grade school. Nasty little candies festooned with idiot sayings. All the kids got a big very cheap packet of valentines, that you punched out of  cardboard sheets, to put in the class Valentine box, usually something like a hatbox, decorated by the teacher with a slot in the top. Some kids gave a valentine to everybody, some just to their close friends, and it was a test of popularity to see who got the most cards. I’d forgotten, it was so long ago.

But who was St. Valentine and why do we celebrate him with heart-shaped boxes of candy? He was apparently some sort of priest or even a bishop in the 3rd Century in Rome, born around AD 226. He died on February 14, 269. He ministered to persecuted Christians, was martyred and his body buried at a Christian cemetery on the Via Flamina close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome. Relics of him were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages. February 14 has been observed  as the Feast of Saint Valentine since 496 AD.  From Wikipedia:

The Catholic Encyclopedia and other hagiographical sources speak of three Saints Valentine that appear in connection with February 14. One was a Roman priest, another the bishop of Interamna (modern Terni, Italy) both buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome, at different distances from the city. The third was said to be a saint who suffered on the same day with a number of companions in the Roman province of Africa, of whom nothing else is known.

Though the extant accounts of the martyrdoms of the first two listed saints are of a late date and contain legendary elements, a common nucleus of fact may underlie the two accounts and they may refer to a single person. According to the official biography of the Diocese of Terni, Bishop Valentine was born and lived in Interamna and while on a temporary stay in Rome he was imprisoned, tortured, and martyred there on February 14, 269. His body was hastily buried at a nearby cemetery and a few nights later his disciples retrieved his body and returned him home.

There seem to be around seven different St. Valentines. The Roman Emperor Claudius took a liking to Valentinus until Valentinus tried to convince him to embrace Christianity, when Claudius refused, and condemned Valentinius to either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs and beheaded. Valentinius refused and was executed in that manner, on February 14 in 269.

Valentinius artifacts (including his bones) have traveled as far as Ireland, where believers and lovers and tourists come, particularly on Valentines’ Day. His body, in 269, was hastily buried at a nearby cemetery and a few nights later his disciples retrieved his body and returned him home.

Saint Valentinius, one account runs, wrote a letter to Asterius’s daughter signed “from your valentine,”which is where the cards come from. Lots of legends have been added to the story.  One says that Valentine secretly performed Christian weddings for couples, allowing the husbands involved to escape conscription.  Supposedly, in order to remind these men of their vows and God ‘s love, Valentinius cut hearts from parchment giving them to these soldiers and persecuted Christians, possibly the origin of the use of hearts on St. Valentine’s Day.

Somewhere under all that is a true story, embroidered and vaguely historical that results in heart-shaped boxes of candy, sugary sweet Valentine cards, and husbands rushing to the grocery store on their way home from work to appear with an armload of flowers and a red heart box of candy, for the love of their life.


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