Disputed Origins of Valentine's Day

Medieval historians say the original holiday for lovers was on May 3 and, in addition, there's a commemoration of a St. Valentine somewhere in the world every other week. In 1381, the author, best known for the Canterbury Tales, was employed in the court of Richard II. Chaucer's boss had managed to edge out two competitors for the hand of Anne of Bohemia. On May 3, the king announced their engagement.

"We easily could do nothing but celebrate this holiday,"said Henry Ansgar Kelly, a medievalist at the University of California at Los Angeles who has studied the day's origins.

50 Christian Martyrs Claim Valentine’s

Kelly said that in medieval times the name Valentine (derived from the Latin word "valor") was so popular that more than 50 Christian martyrs claimed the name.

These various saints — including St. Valentine of Bavaria, the patron saint of epilepsy and ailing livestock, and St. Valentine, the martyred priest of Rome — all had feast days called "St. Valentine's Day."

The Catholic Church added to the confusion in 1969 by striking St. Valentine's Day from its calendar as part of a series of reforms that de-emphasized Roman or Italian saints. "The disappeared saints were not de-canonized or declared nonexistent but merely suffered liturgical demotion," Kelly said.

According to www.holidays.net, the oldest "valentine" greeting in existence was made in the 1400s, and is in the British Museum. Around that time in Europe, often hand-made paper valentines were exchanged, and were especially popular in England. By the early 1800s, valentines began to be assembled in factories, and were often black and white pictures painted by workers. By the end of the 1800s valentines were being made entirely by machine.

That more recent history of Valentine's Day is what some more cynical folks may latch onto in seeking their answers to the day's origins.

"I think there was a Valentine who worked at Hallmark," said Judy McGuire, who writes about sex, love and relationships for the Seattle Weekly. "It's just a day that makes people who are alone feel like big losers and people who in relationships feel inadequate because the day never lives up to expectations."

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