Love, Equality, and Saint Valentine

by on February 14, 2018 · 0 comments

in Culture

A look at the holiday co-opted from paganism … you know … kinda like Easter. Or Christmas.

By Melissa McEwan / Shakesville

Like most of our holidays, Valentine’s Day has a history that reportedly starts with those horny pagans and another one of their many fertility festivals, makes its way to the Catholic Church, which, in a typical cooption, laid on top its own celebration and gave it a fancy new saint-name, winds its way through the work of a popular British author (no, not that guy for a change, but this guy) who gifted its association with romantic love, and ended up mercilessly corrupted by soulless corporations who want to Sell You Shit Without Which You Can’t Possibly Celebrate This Holiday.

Ya know. Kinda like Easter. Or Christmas.

Its origins being murky at best, there are competing legends about the sainted man for whom Valentine’s Day is named, each of which has emerged to fill a need in its time, like such things have a wont to do.

The account I like best, though, casts St. Valentine as a priest who defied a decree of the Roman Emperor Claudius II forbidding soldiers from getting married on the premise that such emotional attachments weakened soldiers’ resolve.

Valentine, moved by the injustice of the edict, met young lovers in secret and held clandestine weddings despite the prohibition — an acknowledgement of the (nearly) universal desire to love and be loved and commit to another, for which he was eventually jailed and executed.

I like the idea, even if it’s only that and nothing more, that Valentine’s Day is not just about love, but about marriage equality.

This was originally published on February 14, 2009.


Here’s a completely different take on its origins from Smithsonian

“The Gory Origins of Valentine’s Day – The holiday began as a feast to celebrate the decapitation of a third-century Christian martyr, or perhaps two.”


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