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Valentine's Day Italian Style

In Italy, Valentine’s Day is a time of joy and fun that all people, irrespective of their age group, participate in, and it is now mostly an imported holiday. Showering gifts and tokens of love is an essential part as celebrated around the world. Flowers are also great expressions of love and include flaming red roses as well as the lily or the hyacinth.

In Italy and Britain, people strongly believed that the first man an unmarried girl saw on Valentine’s Day, (or someone who looks like him) would marry her  within a year. This made girls wake up early on Valentine’s Day to stand by their window and watch a man pass.

The origins of Saint Valentine’s Day go back to the time of the Roman Empire.

Romans celebrated Lupercus and Fauno – the gods protecting the harvest and the cattle, as well as prosperity and fertility on February 15th.  On the evening before this feast all the girls of marriageable age would put a card with their name inside a jar. Every young man would draw out a name of a woman he would pair with  for dancing and singing for the entire celebration. Many fell in love and married.

Pope Gelasio cancelled this pagan rite in 496 A.D. replacing it with a day commemorating Saint Valentine. Valentine had been a bishop who married young couples even if they did not have permission from the Emperor.

Valentino was born in Terni at the end of the second century and martyred on the 14th of February 273 during the Christian persecution under the Emperor
Aurelian. He was buried on a hill outside the city walls of Terni where now stands the Basilica of St. Valentine.

The name Valentine comes from the latin ‘valere’ which means ‘feel good’ and the Saint was famous among his contemporaries for his faith healing powers.
Many anecdotes explain why he was chosen by the Church as the patron protector of lovers.

One story says that Valentine heard two lovers arguing next to his garden. Valentine went up to them and gave them a rose asking them to hold it together without a sting from the thorns. The two lovers made peace and were so happy that they asked Valentine to celebrate their marriage.

After them, many other couples went to St. Valentines to intercede for their love and he dedicated the 14th of every month to receive pairs in love.

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