Valentine's day

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St. Valentine's  Day: 5th Century Rome "...The Catholic Church's attempt to paper over a  popular pagan fertility rite with the clubbing death and decapitation of one of its own martyrs is the origin of this lovers' holiday.

As early as  the fourth century B.C., the Romans engaged in an annual young man's  rite of passage to the god Lupercus. The names of teenage women were  placed in a box and drawn at random by adolescent men; thus, a man was  assigned a woman companion, for their mutual entertainment and pleasure  (often sexual), for the duration of a year, after which another lottery  was staged.
Determined to put an end to this eight-hundred-year-old  practice, the early church fathers sought a "lovers'' saint to replace  the deity Lupercus. They found a likely candidate in Valentine, a bishop who had been martyred some two hundred years earlier. In Rome in A.D.  270, Valentine had enraged the mad emperor the mad emperor Claudius II,  who had issued an edict forbidding marriage. Claudius felt that married  men made poor soldiers, because they were loath to leave their families  for battle. The empire needed soldiers, so Claudius, never one to fear  unpopularity, abolished marriage.

Valentine,  bishop of Interamna, invited young lovers to come to him in secret,  where he joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. Claudius learned of  this "friend of lovers," and had the bishop brought to the palace. The  emperor, impressed with the young priest's dignity and conviction,  attempted to convert him to the Roman gods, to save him from otherwise  certain execution. Valentine refused to renounce Christianity and  imprudently attempted to convert the emperor. On February 24, 270,  Valentine was clubbed, stoned, then beheaded.

History also  claims that while Valentine was in prison awaiting execution, he fell in love with the blind daughter of the jailer, Asterius. Through his  unswerving faith, he miraculously restored her sight. He signed a  farewell message to her "From Your Valentine," a phrase that would live  long after its author died.

From the  Church's standpoint, Valentine seemed to be the ideal candidate to usurp the popularity of Lupercus. So in A.D. 496, a stern Pope Gelasius  outlawed the mid-February Lupercian festival. But he was clever enough  to retain the lottery, aware of Romans' love for games of chance. Now  into the box that had once held the names of available and willing  single women were placed the names of saints. Both men and women  extracted slips of paper, and in the ensuing year they were expected to  emulate the life of the saint whose name they had drawn. Admittedly, it  was a different game, with different incentives; to expect a woman and  draw a saint must have disappointed many a Roman male. The spiritual  overseer of the entire affair was its patron saint, Valentine. With  reluctance, and the passage of time, more and more Romans relinquished  their pagan festival and replaced it with the Church's holy day.

Geoffrey Chaucer by Thomas Occleve (1412)

Medieval period and the English Renaissance

Using the language of the law courts  for the rituals of courtly love, a "High Court of Love" was established  in Paris on Valentine's Day in 1400. The court dealt with love  contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. Judges were selected  by women on the basis of a poetry reading. The earliest surviving  valentine is a fifteenth-century rondeau written by Charles, Duke of  Orleans to his "valentined" wife, which commences.

Je suis desja d'amour tanne
Ma tres doulce Valentine
-Charles d'Orleans ,Rondeau VI, lines 1-2

At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415.
Valentine's Day is mentioned ruefully by Ophelia in Hamlet (1600-1601):

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
William Shakespeare , Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5
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