Photo credit: kitta
As lovebirds and the lovelorn scramble for dinner reservations and floral extravaganzas, few will stop to ponder about St. Valentine or why his feast day is celebrated with plush teddy bears and giant red-heart greeting cards.
The feast day of St. Valentine, who was most likely a bishop in third-century Rome and was publicly beheaded for refusing to denounce the name of Christ, has evolved dramatically over the past 2,000 years, says Philip A. Florio, S.J., assistant to the vice president of student life at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. Not all of these changes has necessarily been for the better, he notes. Although the martyr's feast day was set as February 14 by the Catholic Church to commemorate his life and sacrifice, his name was not linked with romantic and courtly love until the 14th century, when Geoffrey Chaucer incorporated St. Valentine's Day into a love poem, Florio says. The holiday found further popularity in the 19th century, when Valentine's Day cards were first mass produced.
Although Florio says that Valentine's Day does represent an opportunity to express your affection to those you love, the feast day has also transformed over the centuries from religious celebration to consumerism-driven hullabaloo, not unlike Christmas. "I think the secularization of Valentine's Day has cheapened St. Valentine's legacy, without a doubt," he says "What we have today is a Hallmark occasion."
He continues: "An explicitly spiritual and religious festival for a martyr turned into a feast day for valor and love, which then turned into a secular romantic opportunity for fine dining and diamond earrings and 'every kiss begins with Kay.' Something got lost." ::Saint Joseph's University News