Be My (Dark) Valentine? – Valentine’s Day Special!

Hello, my little demons!

I wanted to write a new blog post, this one I wanted to discuss one of the days I dislike… Feburary the 14th.

Valentine’s Day.

This blog is in two parts; the first part I want to explore with you guys the history behind Valentine’s Day, who is St. Valentine? When did it start? And, of course, exploring the dark side of it (because I do love a bit of darkness every now and then). The second part, is the concept of Valentine’s Day, and why I dislike it.

What is Valentine’s Day and where did it come from?

Most of us, at least those in the Western World, will know about Valentine’s Day. The day of love. Valentine’s Day cards, chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. Buying wilting sevice station roses in cheap red glass vases in a mad rush to get something for a loved-one because you forgot all about it… Ahem…

But the real origins of Valentine’s Day is actually a little hazy, even Historians are a little unsure. There isn’t one ‘definitive’ answer, instead there are a number of theories. This blog post will explore these a bit more.

Is Valentine’s Day originally Catholic/Christian?

One of the issues with understanding where Valentine’s Day comes from, is that there are numerous martyrs called ‘Valentine’, and there are many sources that appear to mix them up. (So, bare in with me if I get something wrong!)

Valentinus comes from the Latin “Valens” which means ‘to be in good health’, and was unfortunately a common name in ancient Roman times [2].

However, one source suggests that two holy martyrs of the same name was recorded on the 14th of February [2].

But, the problem is, when I dig into these names I found, there are many different versions. I guess this is the problem with having a popular name, and the power of the internet; facts get mixed up. And to avoid being part of the expanding problem; giving false/mixed facts, I’ll instead just mention the names and the different versions and let you make up your own mind. I think this topic is something historians and archaeologists spend decades researching and a simple novice and her blog simply cannot delve into in a day or two!

Aside from this, however, most sources talk about at least two Valentines.

Saint Valentine of Terni (c) Melanie Renzulli.
Img src: https://www.italofile.com/saint-valentine-terni/

One story is about Valentine of Terni, it suggests he performed marriages for young lovers in secret [1]. He did this because the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriages for young men, suggesting single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Claudius found out, of course, and ordered Valentine to be put to death. The source suggests that that many hagiographers (a writer of the lives of the saints, and yes, I had to look up that word!) agree that this was the ‘real’ Saint Valentine.

Another story, which again is mentioned in the same source [1], but I found mentions in other sources [2, 3], talks about a ‘Valentino falling in love with the daughter of the prison guard (Asterius) when he was imprisoned in Rome’. It talks about a note which has ‘Your Valentine’ or ‘From your Valentino’ (you have to remember the issues of translating languages), which was left before his death. One source even suggests that he performed a miracle of restoring her sight [2]! Valentino was apparently beheaded on the 14th of February 273 [2]. The issue is, within the first source [1] it is unclear whether the author actually talks of two different Valentines.

Another issue is that source [3] not only talks the Valentine that married soldiers when marriage was outlawed, but the source then continues to talk about another Saint Valentine… of Terni, as if this Valentine was seperate from the marriage Valentine. The line “he, too, was beheaded…” suggests this Saint Valentine of Terni was a seperate Valentine to the second. However, it doesn’t really seem to suggest this other Valentine was the imprisoned one from the previous paragraph (You can begin see my confusion with researching for this blog post!)

To backup source [3], Saint Valentine of Terni being a seperate Valentine to the Valentine that married soldier’s, another source talks about Valentine or Terni ‘debating a potential convert’ and he too ‘was beheaded’. But unfortunately not much else is given in this source for this version of Valentine of Terni.

One line I found from source [4] suggests the two Valentines decapitated were in fact different versions of just one saint, which appeared in both Rome and Terni. This would offer an explaination as to why sources appear to confuse the two. Source [5] also offers this as a suggestion too.

Wikipedia [6] also talks about two seperate Valentines; Saint Valentine’s of Rome and Saint Valentine’s of Terni. Which could be another name(s) for the two most common Valentines. However, I always take what I read on Wikipedia with a very large pinch of salt, anyone is able to make changes to pages on Wikipedia, and I have always been told in my past university professors to not use wikipedia as a reference in essays and other university work.

Just to confuse things even more, some sources talk about other ‘Valentines’. Source [1] also explains (which the author admits doesn’t ‘buy’) that Valentine ‘offered roses to a fighting couple and told them to love each other as if they had only one heart’. I would have to agree, this story seems a bit too far-fetched and not strong enough to be ‘written’ and thus become a legend.

Source [4] also talks about another ‘Valentinus’, apparently the earliests of Valentines, who died in Africa along with 24 soldiers, but the source says there isn’t much more information about him, other than birth and death dates, which also makes me consider isn’t enough to turn into a Valentine’s Day.

It is also worth noting that February the 14th became an official holiday associate with romantic love around the 14th and 15th centuries [5, 6]. One source talks about the oldest mention of ‘valentine’ from the 15th century, Charles d’ Orléans, who was held in the Tower of London after his defeat at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). He addressed his wife with “I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine” [2]. However, another source explains it was the poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century who linked love with St. Valentine for the first time in his works “The Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars”, the source then suggests Chaucer invented Valentine’s Day as we know it today [7].

Another note here is that, if St. Valentine’s Day originated from one two martyrs, these would have been many centuries before these first mentions of the ‘Valentine’s Day’ above.

Or… was it actually originally Pagan?

But (get ready for the darkness), the [7] source previously also talks about February 14 also being considered the first day of spring in Britain or more generically, has it’s roots in paganism.

A few sources talk about the feast of Lupercalia [7, 8]. From February the 13th to the 15th, men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals, beliving this would make them fertile.

Although, again, sources make these references in history a little fuzzy. One source explains it was the Romans who celebrated this feast [8], whereas another explains it’s a pagan ritual (I’m sure the Roman’s were Christians, not pagans…)

Source [7] also talks about another tradition at this time, where men selected women’s names at random to ‘couple’ with them for either the duration of the festival or longer, if the match was right.

Source [7] goes on that it was Pope Gelasius I who combined St Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan ritual, so like a previous post I have written (Samhain), it was the Christian’s way of ridding of paganism but combining pagan festivals with Christian ones.

And lastly, Source [8] mentions the Norman’s celebration of Galatin’s Day. Galatin meant “lover of women”, and it could be possible that the two days were confused.

To conclude, therefore, it isn’t definitive as to where Valentine’s Day originated. It could be that it was from one of the martyred Valentines (or it could be that this was indeed one man), it could be a pagan festival whether it was murged or not by the Church, or it could have come from the Norman’s Galatin’s Day. Or, it could have come from the other lesser known stories of Valentine’s I mentioned, or something else entirely.

Why don’t I like Valentine’s Day?

No, it’s not because the last five years I have spent Valentine’s Day alone. I’m not that cynical. I’m actually very happy being single! And trust me, I feel the same when I am in a relationship.

One reason is that, like many holiday’s celebrated in the United Kingdom; Easter, Christmas, Halloween, it’s heavily commercialised. Of course, if it was just commercialised and it didn’t affect my everyday life, I probably wouldn’t care. It’s up to those who want to celebrate it. But, it does affect my everyday life.

It restricts my ability to go out for a meal, not only is it difficult to just go and find a table anywhere, but some restaurants deliberately put the prices up knowing they’ll have people willing to pay it. It can also make things busier, not just restaurants but take-away deliveries too.

Another issue is if you went out with a friend of the opposite sex (of which I have many friends from the opposite sex), it’s immediately assumed they are your partner. Of course this tends to happen to me frequently regardless of whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not, but it’s more prevalent on Valentine’s Day.

Another issue is that shops, such as supermarkets, move items on their shelves to fit in the Valentine’s Day gifts and cards. Sometimes this can mean stock isn’t available, given me less options, and I already have a dislike for supermarkets in this country (that’s a rant for another day!) I will admit, this is more of an issue at Christmas time rather than Valentine’s Day, as there are usually rows and rows at Christmas, yet Valentine’s Day isn’t as commercialised as Christmas, but this still pays a small factor into it.

And, of course, the commercialism from companies that promote Valentine’s Day, not only profiting from it and giving more rise to consumerism (given more power to companies) but making it more of a thing, giving it more social construct and thus giving rise to the guilt people can feel when they don’t conform to the holiday. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t use the day to promote my romance books, as I’d be a hypocrite if I did!

I also dislike the way it makes single people, those who have recently lost love ones, those who generally feel low/depression/isolated and those who are in violent relationships, feel worse. The day is thrown in these’s people’s faces.

And of course, lastly, the one that I constantly tell everyone… why do we even have Valentine’s Day? One day of the year that is devoted to love? Those who are in relationships shouldn’t be using the one day of the year to confess their love!

Rather than celebrating love on one day of the year, let’s remember the reason why we even have Valentine’s Day…

…If we could just remember the reason!

References:

[1] https://www.italofile.com/saint-valentine-terni/

[2] https://www.italyheritage.com/traditions/calendar/february/14-san-valentino.htm

[3] https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

[4] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/gory-origins-valentines-day-180968156/

[5] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day

[7] https://www.countryliving.com/life/a46353/history-of-valentines-day/

[8] https://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day

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thegirlwhowhispered

Hi! I'm Penny, AKA The Girl Who Whispered. I am an award-winning multi-genre author, blogger and activist.

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