Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France. While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois. In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. A Origem do Dia dos Namorados No Brasil comemoramos o dia dos namorados no dia 12 de junho. Na Europa e na América do Norte, essa festa é tradicionalmente comemorada no dia 14 de fevereiro, dia de São Valentim. Como muitas outras datas comemorativas católicas, sua origem está na Roma Antiga, nas festas pagãs de Lupercália, que aconteciam em meados de fevereiro. O festival era dedicado a Lupercus (protetor dos rebanhos e pastores) e Juno (deusa do amor). Em 496, as comemorações da Lupercália foram incorporadas às tradições cristãs e celebradas no dia 14 de fevereiro, em memória de São Valentim, padre romano morto em 270. No século XVII, ingleses e franceses passaram a celebrar o Dia de São Valentim como o dia da união dos namorados. Um século depois, a data foi adotada nos Estados Unidos. Canadenses, mexicanos e australianos também mantêm a tradição: no dia 14 de fevereiro os casais participam de missas e trocam presentes, pedindo proteção e felicidade ao santo. Mas, ao contrário da versão brasileira do dia de São Valentim, o nosso Dia dos Namorados, é comum nos países europeus as pessoas presentearem não somente seus namorados(as), mas aqueles que gostam, como mães, pais, irmãos, amigos. No Brasil, apesar de ser comemorado às vésperas do dia de Santo Antônio, o famoso santo casamenteiro, tudo começou com uma campanha realizada em 1949 pelo publicitário João Dória - na época na Agência Standard Propaganda - sob encomenda da extinta loja Clipper. Para melhorar as vendas de junho, então o mês mais fraco para o comércio, e com o apoio da confederação de Comércio de São Paulo, instituiu a data com o slogan: "Não é só de beijos que se prova o amor". A Standard ganhou o título de agência do ano e a moda pegou, para a alegria dos comerciantes. Desde então, 12 de junho se tornou uma data especial, unindo ainda mais os casais apaixonados, com direito a troca de presentes, cartões, bilhetes, flores, bombons....uma infinidade de opções para se dizer "Eu Te Amo!". Nem todos os países comemoram o dia dos namorados como nós fazemos. Na Itália, as pessoas fazem um grande banquete no dia 14 de Fevereiro. Na Inglaterra, as crianças cantam canções a recebem doces e balas de frutas de seus pais. E na Dinamarca, as pessoas mandam flores prensadas umas às outras, chamadas "flocos de neve". No Japão a data foi introduzida em 1936 e o costume neste dia é as mulheres presentearem os seus amados com caixas de chocolates. Embora a data represente uma oportunidade para as mulheres declararem o seu amor, nos últimos anos o giri choco (chocolate de cortesia ou “obrigação”) também se encontra presente na cesta de compra de grande parcela da população feminina. Mas, muita gente ainda reluta em adotar a data, alegando que se trata de uma jogada comercial, no que não deixam de ter razão, uma vez que o Valentine’s Day representa cerca de 20% do volume anual de vendas das fábricas de chocolate do arquipélago. Mas, o que vale mesmo é a intenção e não há como negar que a vida fica um pouquinho mais doce com estas declarações de amor e com estes chocolates. Nos Estados Unidos nos dias que antecedem 14 de fevereiro, lojas de cartões, livrarias, lojas de departamentos e drogarias oferecem uma grande variedade de cartões comemorativos chamados Valentines. Os adultos costumam comprar cartões para acompanhar presentes mais elaborados como doces, flores ou perfumes. Nas escolas as crianças apreciam comprar ou fazer cartões para seus amigos e professores. O Papa Gelasius declarou o dia 14 de fevereiro como "Valentine's Day"em 498 a.C. Depois, durante a Idade Média, o dia passou a ser dedicado aos apaixonados, como o Dia dos Namorados no Brasil. Na Inglaterra, Valentine's Day transformou-se em feriado por volta do século XVII. Namorados e pretendentes passaram a trocar bilhetinhos de amor e presentes. Nos Estados Unidos, o feriado foi fixado no calendário em 1700. Em 1840, Esther A. Howland começou a produzir em massa lembrancinhas para comemorar o Valentine's Day. Uma Poética Fábula de Amor da Mitologia Psique era uma jovem tão linda que Vênus passou a ter ciúmes dela. A deusa deu ordens a Cupido para induzir Psique a apaixonar-se por alguma criatura de má aparência, porém o próprio Cupido tornou-se seu amante. Cupido a pôs num palácio, mas somente a visitava na escuridão e a proibiu de tentar vê-lo. Movidas pelo ciúme as irmãs de Psique disseram-lhe que ele era um monstro e iria devorá-la. Certa noite Psique pegou uma lamparina e iluminou o quarto para ver Cupido adormecido. Excitada diante da visão de sua beleza ela deixou cair sobre Cupido uma gota do óleo da lamparina, e o despertou. Por causa disso o deus abandonou-a, ressentido pela sua desobediência. Sozinha e cheia de remorsos Psique procurou o amante por toda a terra, e várias tarefas difíceis lhe foram impostas por Vênus. A primeira delas foi separar na escuridão da noite as impurezas de um monte enorme de várias espécies de grãos, porém as formigas apiedaram-se de Psique e vieram em grande número para realizar a tarefa por ela. E assim, por um meio ou por outro, todas as tarefas foram executadas, exceto a última, que consistia em descer ao Hades e trazer o cofre da beleza usado por Perséfone. Psique havia praticamente conseguido realizar a proeza, quando teve a curiosidade de abrir o cofre; este continha não a beleza, e sim um sono mortal que a dominou. Entretanto Júpiter, pressionado por Cupido, consentiu finalmente em seu casamento com a amante, e Psique subiu ao céu. "Embora sem um templo, embora sem altar!" A história de Cupido e Psique é, geralmente, considerada alegórica. Psique em grego significa borboleta como alma. Não há alegoria mais notável e bela da imortalidade da alma como a borboleta, que, depois de estender as asas, do túmulo em que se achava, depois de uma vida mesquinha e rastejante como lagarta, flutua na brisa do dia e torna-se um dos mais belos e delicados aspectos da primavera. Psique é, portanto, a alma humana, purificada pelos sofrimentos e infortúnios, e preparada, assim, para gozar a pura e verdadeira felicidade. Nas obras de arte, Psique é representada como uma jovem com asas de borboleta, juntamente com Cupido, nas diferentes situações descritas pela fábula. The History of Cupid - The God of Love! Cupid is the most famous of Valentine symbols. He is known as a mischievous, winged child armed with bow and arrows. The arrows signify desires and emotions of love, and Cupid aims those arrows at Gods and Humans, causing them to fall deeply in love. Cupid has always played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. In ancient Greece, he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. To the Roman's, he was Cupid, and his mother was Venus. There is a very interesting story about Cupid and his mortal bride Psyche in Roman mythology. Venus was jealous of the beauty of Psyche, and ordered Cupid to punish the mortal. But instead, Cupid fell deeply in love with her. He took her as his wife, but as a mortal, she was forbidden to look at him. Psyche was happy until her sisters persuaded her to look at Cupid. As soon as Psyche looked at Cupid, he punished her by leaving her. Their lovely castle and gardens vanished too. Psyche found herself alone in an open field with no signs of other beings or Cupid. As she wandered trying to find her love, she came upon the temple of Venus. Wishing to destroy her, the goddess of love gave Psyche a series of tasks, each harder and more dangerous than the last. For her last task, Psyche was given a little box and told to take it to the underworld. She was told to get some of the beauty of Proserpine, the wife of Pluto, and put it in the box. During her trip, she was given tips on avoiding the dangers of the realm of the dead. She was also warned not to open the box. But temptation overcame Psyche, and she opened the box. But instead of finding beauty, she found deadly slumber. Cupid found her lifeless on the ground. He gathered the deadly sleep from her body and put it back in the box. Cupid forgave her, as did Venus. The gods, moved by Psyche's love for Cupid, made her a goddess. Today, Cupid and his arrows have become the most popular of love signs, and love is most frequently depicted by two hearts pierced by an arrow, Cupid's arrow. VALENTINE'S DAY Date: February 14 Origins: Nobody knows exactly who St. Valentine was. As a matter of fact, church records show at least two people named St. Valentine. Both of these men were thrown in jail. One went to jail almost 1,700 years ago for performing marriages against the wishes of the Roman Emperor. The other Valentine was thrown in jail for helping some Christians. While in jail, he fell in love with the jailer's blind daughter. His love for her and his great faith managed to miraculously heal her from her blindness. Before he was taken to his death (it is said that he was beheaded on February 14, 269 A.D.), he signed a farewell message to her, “From your Valentine.” The phrase has been used on his day ever since. It was in the year 496 that Pope Celasius set February 14 as the date to honor St. Valentine. The holiday fell on the day before the Roman Lupercalia Festival, a time to honor the god who protected crops and animals from wolves. The Lupercalia Festival was celebrated on February 15. Over the years, Valentine's Day and the Lupercalia Festival were joined into one holiday and became a time to celebrate love and affection. Celebration in the U.S.: Shortly before February 14, card shops, bookstores, department stores, and drugstores display a wide assortment of greeting cards called valentines. As a matter of fact, Valentine's Day is second only to Christmas in the number of cards sent through the U.S. mail. There are special valentines with messages directed to specific family members. Cupid, another symbol of the holiday, became associated with it because he was the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty. Cupid often appears on Valentine cards. For sweethearts and friends, there are valentines in every imaginable style - sentimental, restrained, sophisticated, humorous, or insulting. Adults usually purchase valentines to accompany a more elaborate gift, such as candies, flowers, or perfume. School children enjoy buying or making valentines for their friends and teachers. Suggestion: Students and teachers can exchange friendly messages (along with candy). This can be done as a "secret friend" game.