By Angelo Falcone
Journalism Guild Writer
Valentine’s Day is the special day in February when people send greeting cards called “Valentines” to their sweethearts, friends, and members of their families, all in the name of love, according to the World Book Encyclopedia,. But what is love? Who is Valentine?
In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “love” is defined as “strong affection, warm attachment, or attraction based on sexual desire.” Love is also used to describe a beloved person, or someone who has “unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for others.”
Love is not to be confused with affection or infatuation, however. Love implies intense fondness or deep devotion and, according to Merriam-Webster, affection suggests warm, tender feelings, usually not as powerful or deep as those implied by love. Infatuation implies a foolish or unreasoning passion or affection, often a transient one, such as a crush. Nevertheless, no other day celebrates love more than Saint Valentine’s Day.
The World Book Encyclopedia describes Saint Valentine as not one, but two martyrs of the early Christian Church. The Roman history of martyrs lists two Saint Valentines who were beheaded on Feb. 14 in A.D. 269. One died in Rome and the other in Interamna, present-day Terni (60 miles from Rome). The Saint Valentine who died in Rome was a priest and the other Saint Valentine was bishop of Interamna.
The World Book Encyclopedia further reports that the custom of exchanging Valentines on Feb. 14 can be traced to the English poet of the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer. That’s because he mentioned that “birds begin to pair off on that day” supporting an old English belief that birds chose their mates on that day.
It was also reported that Valentine’s Day was traced to an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, which occurred on Feb. 15. This bizarre festival was to “ensure protection from wolves.” During this celebration, young men struck other people with strips of animal hide. “Women took the blows because they thought that the whipping made them more fertile.” Lupercalia was linked with Valentine’s Day because of the similar date and the connection with fertility.
In the United States and Canada, people exchange Valentines, and many send flowers, boxed candy or other gifts. In Europe, celebrations are similar, except in the United Kingdom and Italy. In those countries, some unmarried women get up before sunrise on Valentine’s Day and stand by the window watching for a man to pass. They believe that the first man they see will marry them within a year.