Happy Valentine's Day!
I fondly remember the elementary school years. We boys would all buy a huge bag of Valentines and merely address one to every girl in the class! Boy that was easy. Add to that a few candy hearts with messages like 'I Love You' and 'Be Mine'. What could possibly be more simple than romance? Then as my testosterone kicked in I discovered that it was going to be a whole lot more difficult! Still as a student and purveyor of romance, I can't help but admire the sentiment. The day we now celebrate is actually several events combined.
Februa (the root of February) was a type of lash routinely employed by village men in securing timbers to their cart. During the festival of Juno (Queen of the Gods) around the 15th of the month, men would pull their laden carts through the village lashing at women. Go figure. Apparently the ladies considered this lashing a good omen for fertility. They obviously did not realize that all a woman need do to make herself appealing is show up.
Also at this time was the feast of Lupercalia. Lupercus protected livestock and villagers alike from marauding wolves at mid-winter. Maidens placed their names into an urn. Whomever drew your name would be your partner till the next festival... no matter how troll like they might be. However, many couples did indeed fall in love and so the holiday survives. It was also believed that birds mated at this time hence the term 'lovebirds'.
And lets not forget the other side of romance. Cupid (originally Eros) fell for a sweet babe named Psyche. It wasn't the best arrangement for her since she was forbidden ever to gaze upon him. Eventually Cupid had to rescue her from the nether world after she apparently lost it which I guess explains her name! And then of course there was Claudius II.
Claudius wanted a top notch fighting force. He felt that romance weakened his troops and in a total lack of discretion forbade his men to marry. This was not at all popular with the men, of course, who sought ways around such restraints. Enter several different priests, one of whom was named Valentine, to join willing lovers in matrimony. When Claudius found out he was predictably outraged and had the priests beheaded.