As you know, I am a research “junkie,” so I decided to find out how Valentine’s Day got started. Are you ready?
While there have been various theories, the most popular dates back to Bishop Valentine, a priest living in Rome during the reign of Claudius the Cruel. Claudius didn’t want men to marry during wartime because he believed single men made better soldiers.
Bishop Valentine went against his wishes and performed secret wedding ceremonies. For this, Valentine was jailed and then executed by order of the Emperor on February 14. While in jail, he wrote a love note to the jailer’s daughter who had been a friend during his imprisonment and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
That would be really romantic, except Valentine was dead.
Now, let’s look at how we sign our Valentine cards. XO. We think of that as love and kisses, but do you know why?
X is the Greek equivalent to “CH” which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, translated as “Christ.” (That’s why you will see Xmas vs. Christmas). It took me years to figure that out. So, in medieval times when common people were unable to write, being “Christ like,” the X was placed on the document and a kiss placed to show their sincerity.
Re: the “O”, it is of North American descent, but no one seems to really know how it began. Theory is, it being rounded it represents arms encircling one another as an embrace. So X = kiss, O = embrace or hug.
Now where the heck did Cupid come from?
Valentine’s Day has long been symbolized by Cupid who appeared in Roman mythology as the chubby and mischievous son of Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love. According to legend, a person pierced by Cupid’s arrow would fall in love with the next person he or she sees. The legend of Cupid was adapted from the earlier Greek myths about a similar character named Eros, who was the son of Aphrodite. Eros was a handsome god with the powers to make the bodies of young men limp at the site of a woman. Even today, Cupid and Eros continue to represent the act of falling in love. For my knowledge-thirsty Romance Consultants: Erotica comes from the ancient Greek word eros, a word for “passionate or sexual love” and personified as a god. The Roman counterpart is Cupid.
- Girls of medieval times ate bizarre foods on St. Valentine’s Day to make them dream of their future spouse. Example: boar’s head sewed onto a turkey’s body. And we think oysters and escargot are weird!
- Casanova, well known as “The World’s Greatest Lover,” ate chocolate to make him virile.
- Over $1 billion worth of chocolate is purchased for Valentine’s Day in the U.S.
- The red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
- Red roses are considered the flower of love because the color red stands for strong romantic feelings.
- Approximately 110 million roses, mostly red, will be sold and delivered within the three-day Valentine’s Day time period.
There are so many tragic love stories: Romeo and Juliet, Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and of course Kate and Leo’s ill-fated relationship in James Cameron’s Titanic.
But undoubtedly the most fabulous and tragic true-life gift of love is the Taj Mahal in India. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial built it to his third wife who died during childbirth. The principal mausoleum was completed in 1648 and the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. Shortly after the Taj Mahal was completed, his son put him under “house arrest”. When he died, he was placed next to his beloved wife in the mausoleum.
We were fortunate to visit the Taj Mahal and it is sadly breathtaking.
Well, bottom line is there are many beautiful love stories and some heart enduring. But on this day, let’s focus on giving out lots of XXXX OOOO’s!
Happy Valentine’s Day!