Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heart Tales

“And yet when all is thought and said,
The heart still overrules the head.”
 -  A.H. Clough (1849)

Being a romantic lot, Filipinos can always relate to this expressed sentiment. We love to be in love. And some of us are also in love with love. This is why we celebrate Valentine’s Day with all the pomp and frills, all supposedly reflective of our deepest affections.

Actually, Valentine’s Day began in various ways. It has been traced to an ancient festival called Lupercalia. The ancient Romans held it on February 15 to honor Lupercus, a fertility god. Goats and dogs were sacrificed at the lupercal, a cave in Rome, in a ceremony of purification. Goat’s blood was smeared on the foreheads of two young men and then wiped off with wool dipped in milk. Dressed in goatskin, the men ran through the streets of Rome, striking with goatskin strips any woman they met. These blows were believed to cure sterility and ease labor for pregnant women.

After the Romans conquered Britain in A.D. 43, the British borrowed many Roman festivals. Many writers linked the festival of Lupercalia with Valentine’s Day because of its connection with fertility.

Other experts connected Valentine’s Day with one or more saints of the early Christian church. The Roman history of martyrs listed two Saint Valentines who were martyred (beheaded) on February 14. One supposedly died in Rome and the other at Interamna, now Terni, 60 miles from Rome.

The St. Valentine who died in Rome seemed to have been a priest who suffered death through persecution of Claudius the Goth about A.D. 269. According to one story, the Roman Emperor Claudius II forbade young men to marry. The emperor thought single men make better soldiers. Valentine disobeyed the emperor’s order and secretly married young couples.

Another story said that Valentine was an early Christian who made friends with many children. The Romans imprisoned him because he refused to worship their gods. The children missed Valentine and tossed loving notes between the bars of his cell window. This tale may explain why people exchange messages on Valentine’s Day.

In A.D. 496, Pope Gelasus named February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day customs or practices

In Norman French, a language spoken in Normandy during the Middle Ages, the word “galantine,” which means gallant or lover, sounded like Valentine. This resemblance may have caused people to think of St. Valentine as the special saint for lovers.

Many Valentine’s Day customs involved ways that single women could learn who their future husbands would be. Englishwomen of the 1700s wrote men’s names on scraps of paper, rolled each in a little piece of clay and dropped them all in water. The first paper that rose to the surface supposedly had the name of a woman’s true love.

Also, unmarried woman pinned five bay leaves on their pillows – one of the center and a piece to each corner -- on the eve of Valentine’s Day. It was said that this would enable them to see their future husbands in their dreams.

In Great Britain and Italy, some unmarried women got up before sunrise on Valentine’s Day, stood by their window, sometimes for hours, watching for a man to pass. They believed that the first man they see will marry them within a year.

In Derbyshire, a county in central England, young women circled the church 3 or 12 times at midnight and repeated such verses as: “I sow hempseed/ Hempseed I sow/ He that loves me best/ Come after me now.” Their true loves then supposedly appeared.

One of the oldest customs was the practice of writing women’s names on slips of paper and drawing them from a jar. The woman whose name was drawn by a man becomes his valentine and thus he paid special attention to her. Many men gave gifts to their valentines, some even gave fancy dress balls to honor their valentines.

Another custom during Valentine’s Day in the 1700s described how groups of friends met to draw names. For several days, each man wore his valentine’s name on his sleeve. The saying “wearing his heart on his sleeve” probably came from this practice.

Some historians traced the custom of sending verses on Valentine’s Day to a Frenchman named Charles, Duke of Orleans. He was captured by the English during the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he wrote love poems or “valentines” to his wife in France.

The custom of sending romantic messages gradually replaced that of giving gifts. Sweethearts exchanged handmade cards during the 17th and 18th centuries. The practice of sending greeting cards reached its height in the latter part of the 19th century.

Today, sending valentine cards (or e-cards) is one way of telling a loved one of the sender’s affections. Some send flowers, chocolates and romantic gifts while others celebrate Valentine’s Day by dining out in choice restaurants or strolling in some of the metropolis’ romantic spots.

However way it started or is celebrated, Valentine’s Day will always be a day for lovers.

Photo credits:

http://www.aloveheart.com (free image)

@copyright: all articles in this blog are written by Grafflink