“Be my valentine” in Irish = “A bheith ar mo vailintín”
14th February is Valentine’s Day, but how did it all start?
The Legend of St Valentine
This is the story of how Valentinus became St Valentine. In 269 AD, single Roman men were drafted into the Roman army so many men got married in order to dodge the draft. As a result Emperor Claudius II of Rome forbade Roman men to get engaged or marry. Claudius also ordered all Romans to worship the state’s religious icons, and outlawed Christianity. But a Christian priest, Valentinus continued to practice his Christian beliefs and he secretly married couples.
Valentinus was famous for his medical and spiritual healing abilities. A jailer for the Emperor of Rome asked Valentinus to help restore his young daughter, Julia’s sight. Valentinus agreed to try to help but told the father it would be difficult as the little girl had been blind since birth. He gave Julia an ointment for her eyes and she came to visit him on a regular basis. Valentinus also gave Julia some lessons and taught her about the history of Rome. He also taught her about nature, maths and about God. The little girl’s faith in God increased and she prayed she would be able to see.
Valentinus was caught marrying couples and when the Roman soldiers came to arrest him there was nothing the jailer could do to help him. Valentine was jailed and condemned to death. On the eve of his death Valentinus wrote a note to Julia and gave it to the jailer to give to his daughter. The next day, 14th February 269 AD, Valentinus was beaten to death with clubs and his head was cut off.
When the jailer went home he gave the note to his daughter. Inside the note was a yellow crocus, the message said ‘From Your Valentine’ and the yellow crocus was the first thing the little girl saw for the first time as her eyesight had been restored. The crocus is often referred to as St. Valentine’s Flower.
Although Valentine was martyred in 269 AD, his feast-day wasn’t announced until 496 AD, when Pope Gelasius I named February 14th as Saint Valentine’s Day, to replace the pagan god Lupercus’ feast of 13-15th February, ‘Lupercalia’, for health and fertility; also celebrated was Juno, the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses, Goddess of women and marriage, on the 14th February names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed in a jar, each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar. Each couple would then be paired for the feast on the 15th February, sometimes the partnership would last all year, some falling in love and eventually marrying. Creating St. Valentine’s Day allowed Christianity to take control of the celebrations of love and fertility. Valentine’s Day became the day that lovers sent messages of their endearing love to each other and St Valentine became known as the patron saint of lovers, couples and marriages.
It is also believed that the 14th February was a good fit for St. Valentine’s Day as being half way through the second month of the calendar year when the birds began to pair. Noted in Chaucers Parliament of Foules
‘For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s Day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate’
Also to note, in Dame Elizabeth Brews Paston Letters, writing to a suitor about her daughter
‘And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine’s Day and
Every bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come
On Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then,
I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray
that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.’
Shrine of St Valentine, Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin, Ireland
Fr. John Spratt was an Irish Carmelite and a well-known preacher, who worked among the poor in the Liberties in Dublin, Ireland. He built a church ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ at Whitefriar Street. Fr. Spratt visited Rome in 1835. While there he preached at the Gesu, a famous Jesuit church. Many Roman elite came to hear him and he was given many gifts. Pope Gregory XVI gave Fr. Spratt the remains of Saint Valentine/ This included a small vessel with this blood, which had been found during renovations of the basilica built over the site of his grave. It can be taken that Pope Gregory XVI was also anxious for Ireland to receive a holy relic at this time. This was because the Roman Catholics were beginning to be allowed practice their religion again in Ireland, but most ancient Irish relics had been destroyed.
St. Valentine’s remains arrived in Dublin on 10th November 1836 and were brought by procession to Whitefriar Street Church, received by Archbishop Murray of Dublin. An accompanying letter, in Latin, read:
We, Charles, by the divine mercy, Bishop of Sabina of the Holy Roman Church, cardinal Odescalchi arch priest of the sacred Liberian Basilica, Vicar General of our most Holy Father the Pope and Judge in ordinary of the Roman Curia and of its districts, etc., etc.
To all and everyone who shall inspect these our present letters, we certify and attest, that for the greater glory of the omnipotent God and veneration of his saints, we have freely given to the Very Reverend Father Spratt, Master of Sacred Theology of the Order of Calced Carmelites of the convent of that Order at Dublin, in Ireland, the blessed body of St Valentine, martyr, which we ourselves by the command of the most Holy Father Pope Gregory XVI on the 27th day of December 1835, have taken out of the cemetery of St Hippolytus in the Tiburtine Way, together with a small vessel tinged with his blood and have deposited them in a wooden case covered with painted paper, well closed, tied with a red silk ribbon and sealed with our seals and we have so delivered and consigned to him, and we have granted unto him power in the Lord, to the end that he may retain to himself, give to others, transmit beyond the city (Rome) and in any church, oratory or chapel, to expose and place the said blessed holy body for the public veneration of the faithful without, however, an Office and Mass, conformably to the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, promulgated on the 11th day of August 1691.
In testimony whereof, these letters, testimonial subscribed with our hand, and sealed with our seal, we have directed to be expedited by the undersigned keeper of sacred relics.
Rome, from our Palace, the 29th day of the month of January 1836.
Regd. Tom 3. Page 291
Philip Ludovici Pro-Custos
On the death of Fr. Spratt, local interest in the remains diminished and the relics were put into storage. In the 1950/60s the Whitefriar Street Church underwent extensive renovations and a special altar and shrine were built to house St. Valentine’s relics. A wooden casket with St. Valentine’s remains lies beneath a marble altar to the right side of the main altar. The top of the casket has the coat of arms of Gregory XVI and the letter of Cardinal Odescalchi inscribed in English on two large gold plates. Another smaller plate inscribed ‘This shrine contains the sacred body of Saint Valentinus the Martyr, together with a small vessel tinged with his blood.’
A life-sized statue of St. Valentine stands in a marble mosaic alcove above the altar. The statue of the saint has red vestments and is holding a crocus. An ornate iron and glass gate surrounds the area.
Couples come to visit St. Valentine throughout the year to pray to him to watch over them. On St. Valentine’s Day, 14th February the relics are placed on the high alter in the church and celebrated at the masses, with special sermons and a ‘Blessing of the Rings’ for couples about to be married.
Light a candle to St Valentine, or other saints, for your intentions at Whitefriar Street Church. The priests at Whitefriar Street Church offer this service free of charge, click here to leave your details and you can choose your Saint to light the candle to. This is a really lovely idea – thank you Whitefriar Street Church!!
Prayer to St Valentine
O glorious advocate and protector,
look with pity upon our wants,
hear our requests,
attend to our prayers,
relieve by your intercession the miseries
under which we labour,
and obtain for us the divine blessing,
that we may be found worthy to join you
in praising the Almighty for all eternity:
through the merits of
Our Lord Jesus Christ.
So how is Valentine’s Day celebrated around the world?
Valentine’s Day in some countries around the world…..
- In China, Valentine’s Day is called the ‘Lovers Festival’, however, Valentine’s Day on February 14 is not celebrated because it is often too close to the Chinese New Year, which is usually in January or February. The Chinese observe the ‘Chinese Valentine’s Day’ or Qixi Festival on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, celebrating the mythical cowherd and weaver girl’s annual meeting.
- In Finland, Valentine’s Day is calledYstävänpäiväwhich translates into “Friend’s Day”, when friends as well as lovers are honoured.
- In Estonia, Valentine’s Day is calledSõbrapäev, and is celebrated similar to Finland.
- In France, Valentine’s Day is referred to as ‘Saint Valentin’.
- In Greece, the 3rd July is the feast of Hyacinth of Caesarea, who is traditionally the Saint who protects people who are in love, however, St. Valentine’s Day on 14th February to show undying love is becoming more popular.
- In Iran, the Sepandarmazgan, or Esfandegan, is a festival where people express love towards their mothers and wives, and it is also a celebration of earth in ancient Persian culture.
- In Israel, the Jewish tradition of Tu B’Avhas been revived and transformed into the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day, celebrated on 15th August. Traditionally girls would wear white dresses and dance in the vineyards, where the boys would be waiting for them. In modern times, Tu Be’av is celebrated as a second holiday of love to Saint Valentine’s Day.
- In Japan, the custom that only women give chocolates to men appears to have originated from the translation error of a chocolate-company during initial advertising campaigns. Gifts of chocolate are given to lovers but also to male co-workers on 14th A reply day was created on March 14th, called ‘White Day’, for men to return the gesture, but with better gifts. An actual romantic night is celebrated on Christmas Eve.
- In many Latin American countries Valentine’s Day is known as ‘Día del Amor y la Amistad’ (Day of Love and Friendship), Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Exuador, Mexico and Purerto Rico among others. It is also usual for people to do nice things to show their appreciation of family and friends. Often theDía del amor y la amistadand the Amigo secreto (“Secret friend”), which is similar to the Christmas Kris Kindle, are usually celebrated together on the 14th of February.
- In Guatemala, Valentine’s Day is known as the ‘Día del Cariño’ (‘Affection Day’).
- In Brazil, the Dia dos Namorados (‘Lovers’ Day’, or ‘Boyfriends’/Girlfriends’ Day’) is celebrated on June 12, the day before St Anthony’s Day, who is theirmarriage saint. Single women perform rituals, calledsimpatias, to find a good husband or boyfriend, while couples exchange gifts. The February 14th Valentine’s Day is not celebrated at all because it usually falls too near the week long Brazilian Carnival.
- In Colombia, Día del amor y la amistadand theAmigo secreto (“Secret friend”) is celebrated on the third Saturday in September.
- In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is calledAraw ng mga Puso(‘Hearts Day’).
- In Portugal, Valentine’s Day is called‘Dia dos Namorados’ (Lover’s Day or Day of the Enamoured).
- In Romania, there is a traditional holiday for lovers called ‘Dragobete’, celebrated on 24th February, named after a character from Romanian folklore. ‘Drag’ meaning ‘dear’ and ‘dragoste’ meaning ‘love’. In recent years, Romania has also started celebrating Valentine’s Day as well as ’Dragobete’.
- In Denmark and Norway, Valentine’s Day is known as ‘Valentinsdag’.
- In Sweden, Valentine’s Day is called ‘Alla hjärtans (‘All Hearts Day’).
- In South Korea, every month on the 14th is observed as some form of love day, i.e. Candle Day, Valentine’s Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day. In addition, young couples celebrate ‘Pepero Day’ on 11th
- In Spain, Valentine’s Day is known as ‘San Valentin’. In Catalonia they celebrate ‘La Diada de Sant Jordi’ (Saint George’s Day) on 23rd
- In Taiwan, 3 days of love are celebrated – Valentine’s Day, White Day and on the 7th day of the 7th month, when single people go to their temple to burn incense and pray to meet a partner.
- In Wales, the patron saint of Welsh lovers is St Dwynwen and he is celebrated on January 25th ‘Dydd Santes Dwynwen’ (St Dwynwen’s Day). Valentine’s Day is also celebrated.
Wonderful Irish Gifts made in Ireland