The history of Valentine's Day and the story of its patron saint is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?
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. 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, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl, possibly his jailor's daughter, who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and most importantly romantic figure.
By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 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.
A BULGARIAN TRADITION
On 14 February we celebrate St. Valentine's day, which is relatively new for our country, and another very old and significant celebration of the wine, called Trifon Zarezan.
The Bulgarian holiday of vine-growers and wine-makers, Trifon Zarezan, marks the dividing line between the dying winter and the onset of spring. There are many rituals performed to ensure vitality and fruitfulness. Women make special round loafs often decorated with a vine-leaf, a symbol of the fertile field, and hand them out to friends, neighbours and relatives. Vineyard owners cut down the fruit trees did not bear fruit.
The man of the household picks up 3 live coals from the hearth symbolising the invigorating power of the fire and sun. The coals are used to try to foretell which crops will yield the most abundant harvest in the new season.
Country folk show their respect to their land with festive songs and dances, and a table is laid among the vineyards for a family feast. The first pruned vine sticks are woven into a crown for the best vine-grower in the village to proclaim him the “Vine King” of the year. He is then paraded around the village to bless people and be offered their wine in return – everyone consumes large amounts! There are lost of other traditions but generally the more wine that flows on that day, the more generous the next harvest will be! St. Trifon is honoured as the patron saint of vine-yards. He apparently once had a vineyard himself and would prune it.
One day, the Virgin Mary passed by and Trifon laughed at her, so she condemned him to cut his nose with the pruning shears, which he promptly did! From then on people would call him Trifon the noseless! He is also nicknamed Trifon the Drunkard as he had a great fondness for his vineyards and the wine they produced!
The festival is so popular that it is often celebrated twice! Once in line with the old calendar and once in line with the new holiday calendar, i.e. at present it is celebrated on February 1st, but many people prefer to repeat it on February 14th.
Do you celebrate St. Valentine's day in your country ?
What do you do on that day ?