Who was Saint Valentine?

There are many Saints named Valentine. But the one in particular that the day is attested to, but of who no proper records exist, is one who lived in the 3rd century and died on 14th February. He was thought to have been a Roman Catholic priest who endorsed the Christian religion, and was arrested for marrying Christians. But when, under house arrest, he cured the sight of the arresting judge’s daughter, he was set free. However, he was later rearrested for the same ‘crimes’ and although he was liked by the Emperor Claudius (the internet isn’t certain which Claudius this was, but it is mostly a myth so just go with it), Valentine’s efforts to convert Claudius to Christianity resulted in his own execution, and ultimate martyrdom.

However, it was not until the middle ages, with courtly love and the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer that the day became associated with ideas of romantic love. Building, most likely, on the idea of Saint Valentine as a patron of happy couples. But there are many variations on Saint Valentine’s day as we know it in the western world. There are countries, religions and cultures where Valentine’s Day falls on a different date, is celebrated differently, and most importantly cases where another saint or character is used to celebrate romantic love.

The Eastern Orthodox church celebrate Saint Valentine on 6th July. In Romania they celebrate Dragobete, on 24th February, which is named after a character from Romanian folklore (although they have also started celebrating St. Valentine’s Day). In the Middle-East there have been real issues about allowing people to celebrate the seemingly western holiday, which is in conflict with Eastern and Islamic ideals.

In Wales, apparently, we celebrate the patron saint of Welsh lovers, Saint Dwynwen, on 25th January. But I’m Welsh and I’ve never heard of it, maybe that’s why I have such bad Valentine’s Days, I’m looking at the wrong date? I think I should take up a tradition used by the South Koreans. There, on 14th February, women give chocolate to the men, on 14th March (White Day) men give non-chocolate confectionery to the women, and on 14th April (Black Day)  if you have not received anything or either of the prior days you go to a restaurant, eat ‘black noodles’ and mourn your single life. (Or possibly bitch about it to your friends, or hook up with someone?)

It doesn’t really matter where you are, what you call your day, or how you celebrate it, or don’t even celebrate it all. The real thing to take note of is to tell the ones you love that you love them, and do everything you can to let them know this, preferably on a daily basis not just when an undependable myth about a Roman Catholic priest is wheeled out. Ultimately all these holidays are successful in doing is making us singletons feel quite lonely. But this year I’ve decided to put a positive spin on it. I’ve had a lot of bad luck when it comes to 14th February, not just romantically, I also seem to end up having some sort of weird, stupid day anyway. But staying on the subject of romance, the only Valentines I’ve received in my life have been from men (three men to be specific) who all turned out to be gay. I know, makes a girl think. But this year I’m not going to bemoan it or giggle about it. Instead, I’ve decided to think less about myself and more about them. And I’m gonna think; the world is pretty great right now, and those men get to live in a time where although it’s not absolutely perfect for people of their sexuality, they get to be who they want to be. And pretty soon they’ll get to marry who they want to, and that’s just brilliant!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

(FYI. Saint Valentine is the patron of love, engaged couples, and happy marriages. He’s also against fainting, plague and epilepsy, and is the patron of bee keepers. So if you’re a single epileptic bee keeper, who is in bed with a bad case of flu… Have a most awesome Valentine’s Day :-).)

[carried over from ‘anyadditionalinformation’ wordpress blog, originally published on 14th February 2013]

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