Love is in the Air

Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around
Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound…
(Love is in the Air by John Paul Young)

Before you met me
I was alright but things
Were kinda heavy
You brought me to life
Now every February
You’ll be my Valentine, Valentine…

(Teenage Dream by Katy Perry)

Whether you love it or hate it, it is that time of year again- Valentine’s Day!  Love is in the air, it’s everywhere you look around, love is in the air, it’s every sight and every sound… or perhaps you have a special someone who is going to be your Valentine every February… or perhaps, like me, you need to listen to a different song to get Katy Perry lyrics out of your head.  Either way, Valentine’s Day is here, and it is actually a very interesting holiday.
According to www.history.com, Valentine’s Day (like many others) is a combination of an early Christian holiday and another ancient (in this case Roman) holiday.  It is in fact in honor of the martyred Christian Saint Valentine, and the early church scheduled this saint’s day to coincide with the pagan Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia.  However, there are at least two different legends as to who Saint Valentine actually was and what he had to do with love and romance.
According to the article, “one legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.”  Either way, by the Middle Ages, Saint Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Lupercalia, the Roman fertility festival which early church leaders wanted to Christianize by combining it with a saint’s day, was held in honor of Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome who were believed to have been raised by a wolf.  Members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the cave where Romulus and Remus were believed to have been raised by the wolf.  The priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification.  As the article explains, “they would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.”

February 14th was declared “Valentine’s Day” by Pope Gelasius towards the end of the fifth century, but it did not become associated with romantic love until the Middle Ages.  Written valentines began to appear around this time, and the first known valentine was a poem written in 1415 by the Duke of Orleans to his wife, while imprisoned at the Tower of London following the Battle of Agincourt.  It is now held in the manuscript collection at the British Library in London.  Our modern Valentine’s Day evolved from this, and is currently celebrated in the United States, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

By 1900, printed cards began to replace handmade cards as the printing industry modernized.  However, people often still make handmade cards as a special gesture.  If you would like ideas for creating handmade cards to give to your special valentine or other loved ones, check out this Martha Stewart site.  And also, check out our vast collection of romance novels at the McAllen Public Library!


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