Valentine's Day: Some myths about the day
Love has always been a source of inspiration, including wars and cultures that have woven myths around loving ties that have transcended history.
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Valentines Day has many origins, and we're here to pick them apart.
Who was the myth inspired by?
According to historical texts, during the empire of Marcus Aurelius Claudius, which lasted from 214 and 270, the Roman emperor issued a decree in which soldiers were prohibited from forming families. He thought the soldier would lose some of his strength and avoid putting his life on the line as he should.
In response to the ban, myths arose about a man with a religious background — a bishop named Valentín — who opposed the official mandate and secretly married several soldiers to celebrate love.
In other stories, there is talk of another man of the same name who distributed parchment hearts to the soldiers who left for battle so they could remember their loved ones on the battlefield.
According to the existing records of Catholic saints, 11 have received the name of Valentine, three of whom, according to statements by the researcher Thiago Marki from the Federal University of Sao Paulo, are personalities around which love narratives have been woven.
Although in some regions of the world the tradition inspired by Valentine's message of love goes beyond the commercial celebration of a day for couples, and favors him as a true saint, the Catholic Church, decided not to mention him in its traditional liturgical calendar after the Second Vatican Council, held in the 1960s.
Given the impossibility of differentiating the actions of each of these saints related to the origin of Valentine's Day, the record that keeps the biographies of the saints worshipped in Christianity, Roman martyrology mentions Saint Valentine as someone who was martyred in Rome on Feb. 14.
Without elaborating on details, they establish the probable date of the priest's martyrdom as the year 270, indicating that the rest is a product of the oral tradition of the first Christian peoples whose celebrations, in many cases, ended up being appropriated by the official tradition of the Church.
The pagan tradition
Around this date, a month before the beginning of Spring, the Lupercalia was celebrated in ancient Rome, which was considered a ritual to attract fertility.
Amid a tradition that also sought for crops to be fertile, people gathered intimately to ask the gods to grant them these favors.
As the mechanism of Christianity sought to convert everything pagan into an official tradition, its hierarchies found a way to give a new meaning to the date and framed it as a tradition that celebrates the union between couples.
Christianity and its imposed dates
Just as Dec. 25 is not the exact date of the birth of Jesus, Feb. 14 — the day that supposedly alludes to the death of Saint Valentine — was assumed so it could coincide with dates of importance for religion and suppress celebrations considered pagan.
It was Pope Gelasius I (410-196), who in the year 496 established that Saint Valentine should be celebrated on Feb. 14. This was a strategy of the Church to resignify and institutionalize the various cults and turn them into a single official religion.
In this way, Valentine's Day, which began as a pagan celebration that was absorbed by the official Christian traditions, is today a date with little religious association and is commercially exploited by different industries looking to boost sales after a January with few activities on the calendar.