Monday, February 14, 2011
Who will be your Valentine?
Valentine's Day has a long and interesting history that definitely predates the Hallmark holiday it has become and while the Catholic Church can claim three different St. Valentines, the history of the holiday goes much further back than Catholicism or Christianity.
The middle of February (hence the date of February 14), is a significant time of the year in several older-than-christianity religions - marking the early days before spring when the weather has noticeably changed for the better (usually), many animals have come out of hibernation, birds and other animals have begun their mating rituals and it is time to begin fertility rituals and sacrifices.
A common practice in early to mid February in Pre-Christian Europe was to match up single men and women in a ritual selection process to encourage long term pairing/relationships, fertility and children. The new couples would be matched together for a year. The match would continue if children happened along and would be discontinued if it didn't work out as hoped.
It wasn't until the early days of christianity, when the church was co-opting as many pagan holidays as it could, in order to corral pagans into their new religion, that a saint was chosen to represent the date. Like many co-opted holidays, the church got part of it right - the fertility/love aspect - which was enough for the pagans to join in to the celebration.
The early church tried to discontinue the matching/mating ritual, however the ritual practice continued in several forms regardless of church pressure to stop and today we celebrate Valentine's Day in a similar fashion to the old pagans - we have our youth (kids and young adults) hand out symbols of love and affection to each other, encouraging them to select a valentine - a one true love - in other words encouraging a pairing off of young and potentially (hopefully?) fertile folks.
Isn't it funny how the wheel turns?
Now that you have had your history/anthropology lesson - here are some nice little pictures of kissing boys to make your day brighter!