Thursday, February 14, 2008

Legends & Folklore of Valentine's Day

We went out for breakfast this morning and there was an interesting article in the paper with some details of the legends and folklore of Valentine's Day. I think this would be great fodder for future Valentine's Day projects. I’ll paraphrase ….

As with most holidays there seems to be a variety of opinions as to the origin of this particular day. Some say it originated from a Saint Valentine who died on Feb 14th A.D. 269, which happened to be the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. It's said that he left a note for the jailer’s daughter (whom he had affections for) and signed it, "From your Valentine". Apparently 227 years later, in A.D. 496 Pope Gelasius set aside Feb. 14th to honor St. Valentine.

It’s said that in ancient Rome, Feb 14th was a holiday to honor Juno, the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, the 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia. Back in those days, boys and girls were kept strictly separated and the custom was to draw names on the eve of the Feast of Lupercalia. The girl’s names were written on strips of paper and placed in a jar and the young men would pick out a name. The pair would be partnered for the duration of the festival & if all went well they might have eventually married. This was probably the basis of the love lotteries mentioned earlier.

Other versions are that St. Valentine performed secret marriages against the wishes of Emperor Claudius II who had ordered an end to marriages because married men were reluctant to join his army. He was found out and jailed for defying the Emperor.

Now, here’s a few folk stories or traditions about how one might find the love of their lives.
In Wales, wooden love spoons were carved & given as gifts on Feb. 14th. Hearts, keys & keyholes were favorite symbols used as decorations on the spoons, meaning, "you unlock my heart".

The expression, "wear your heart on your sleeve" comes from a custom in the middle ages. Young men & women would draw names from a bowl (do you see a pattern here?) to see who their valentines would be. They would then wear the name on their sleeves for a week for all the world to see. So, "to wear your heart on your sleeve" means the world can easily see what you’re feeling.

Some people used to believe that if a woman saw a Robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor, if she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. A goldfinch would mean she’d marry money! (Birds are another great source of symbolism)

This is one I actually remember from my childhood, twisting the stem of an apple while thinking of the names that one might want to marry. According to folklore, whichever name was thought of when the stem came off, was the one you would marry.

Pick a dandelion that has gone to seed & blow the seeds into the wind. The number of seeds left on the stem will indicate the number of children you’d have. Not sure what that has to do with finding true love. And apparently that had absolutely nothing to do with me, I use to blow those seed heads all the time and have got not one child to show for it, unless I count my cats. I’ve had quite a few of those. (My husband absolutely hates it when I blow the seeds on a dandelion, all he sees are more weeds, I see poetry.)

Cut an apple in half and count the seeds for the number of children in your future, again, what’s love got to do with it?

And lastly, there’s a custom that originated from a popular English belief that birds chose their mates on Feb 14th, so Valentine’s Day is called "the Birds Wedding Day" in parts of Sussex.
Ok, that’s all I’ve got for now. I don’t know how reliable all the info is as I’m only relying on the local rags article. I’ll have to do a little research on my own.

Have a nice Birds Wedding Day!

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