|Portrait of St. Valentine; Dublin Cathedral.|
Given the high readership of the earlier holiday-themed blogs, (THE TRUTH BEHIND ST. PATRICK'S DAY and CHRISTMAS TREE CONTROVERSY IN BERLIN), we here at the DUNER BLOG thought we'd answer some of the many readers' questions we've received regarding VALENTINE'S DAY. Sorry...we can't answer all the thousands of letters and e-mails we receive daily!
Just who the hell is Saint Valentine anyway? (Justin, Boston)
Easy...Justin! Watch the language! Valentine lived in Rome under the reign of Claudius II. The emperor was having difficulty recruiting soldiers for his war in Pannonia. Life was still abundant in Rome, so able-bodied men cited an old ordinance that forbid husbands from entering the army. Men wanted to stay home with their wives instead of fighting in soggy Serbia. To solve the problem, clever Claudius passed an edict banning all marriages! So, everyone went to the illegal Christian priest Valentine...the only person in Rome who would perform wedding ceremonies.
Where did the traditions of flowers and cards come from? (Julie, London)
It's hard to hide from Roman legions. Valentine was soon caught and imprisoned. Our priest was popular, and many paid their respects to him by tossing flowers and cards over the wall into his cell. One well-wisher in particular touched Valentine's heart: The warden's blind daughter. Before he was executed, he wrote her a special letter. He signed it "From Your Valentine" and the phrase has stuck ever since.
Indeed it was, Greg! The "Feast of Lupercalia" protected humans from wolves. Its origins trace all the way back to the founders of Rome, Remus and Romulus, who were cared for by a she-wolf (NOTE: Not to be confused with the awful Shakira song). The celebrations were rowdy: Boys cut out goat brains and threw the blood on the girls for good "fertility" luck. Talk about fun!
Why is there always so much traffic on Via Flaminia on Valentine's Day? (Costanza, Rome)
Santo Cielo, Costanza! You'll be late for tee time! On February 14th, Valentine was first beaten with clubs, then stoned and finally beheaded outside the Flaminian Gates...the traditional Roman execution site. Today, a basilica near the Piazza del Popolo is a site of many saintly pilgrimages. NOTE: Public executions continued here until 1846.
How did the birds figure into the equation? (Antonio, Amsterdam)
It began with a sonnet by celebrated English writer GEOFFREY CHAUCER. It included the line "For this was sent on St. Valentine's Day...When every fowl chooses his mate." This started the legend that on February 14th, male birds begin to search for that special companion. Another forgotten medieval avian tradition states that the first type of bird a girl sees on Valentine's Day will determine her future husband. If she sees a bluebird, she'll marry a happy man, but if it's a sparrow...she'll marry a poor man. A blackbird will get you a priest for a husband...but if you first see a crossbill this means your spouse will be argumentative. And hope you don't happen upon an owl on this Valentine's Day...because then you'll "remain a spinster" for the rest of your love life!
We here at the DUNER BLOG wish everyone a HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!! XOXO