Celebrating St Valentine’s Day

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The celebration of St Valentine’s Day can be traced to the ancient Roman holiday of the Lupercal.  Celebrated at the ides of February, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

It is believed that in 498 AD Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St Valentine’s Day in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan festival.  Valentine was a priest who had 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.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.  Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

The most notorious St Valentine’s Day was 1929 when 6 people associated with Bugs Moran and 1 bystander were gunned down by members of Al Capone’s gang dressed as policemen.  Bugs Moran himself was on his way to the garage where the “massacre” occurred when he saw the “policemen” enter and managed to escape.

Today about 1 billion Valentine’s Day Cards, 110 million roses, mostly red, and 36 million boxes of chocolates are sold each year.  Those in the know, however, will rent a Top Hat Photo Booth for a truly memorable holiday.

 

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