MANILA, February 14, 2004
 (STAR) ROSES AND THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces - Knock! Knock! Who is there? Atlas. Atlas who? At last Valentine’s Day is here.

We start this column with that reminder because in the elevator we heard someone ask, Valentines na ba? Another answer Hindi pa time. February pa ’yun."

Next to Christmastime, Valentine is probably the most welcome festivity. Christmas is celebrated to remind us that we must love the whole of mankind. Valentine’s is for persons of the opposite set who love one another. Very few people know that its origins have nothing to do with St. Valentine. It is a fact that Valentine’s day is of pre-Christian origins. Valentine’s is a pagan feast that the ancient Romans called Lupercalia. It actually marked the mating season of birds. The noted writer, Geoffrey Chaucer, recorded this when he wrote:

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day

When every fowl cometh to choose her mate.

It became Saint Valentine’s simply because the Lupercalia coincided with the feast of two Saint Valentines, both of whose feast days fell on February 14. One was a Roman who was jailed for aiding persecuted Christians. While in prison, he was said to have miraculously restored the eyesight of his jailer’s daughter. Despite this, he was martyred by being beaten to death. The other St. Valentine was the Bishop of Terni, who was also martyred a few years later. Neither of them had any connection with courting couples or dedicated husbands and wives. And Jesuit Bollandists maintained that the two St. Valentines were one and the same.

It was the early English settlers who extended Valentine’s Day to the United States. One of the earliest references is Massachusetts Bay Governor Winthrop’s letter to his wife on February 14, 1624. It said, "Thou must be my Valentine." Today, it is the most popular holiday in the United States, next only to Christmas. Unfortunately, it is also associated with some of the most violent incidents in the United States. On Valentine’s Day of 1929, seven gangsters linked with Al Capone were killed in a garage. It marked the decline of Al Capone’s power during the era of Prohibition. That incident is historically known as "The St. Valentine’s Massacre."

In the Philippines, St. Valentine’s Day is nationally observed but mainly by persons with high school or college education. And to this day, there are no towns, churches or novenas named after St. Valentine. The celebration is generally limited to sending cards or having lunch or dinner with one’s loved one.

Businessmen have tried to promote St. Valentine’s Day as a means to recover from the post-Christmas business slump. But the celebration is limited to an exchange of cards and/or lunch and dinner with one’s loved one.

We mentioned that Valentine originally commemorated the mating season of birds. Do you know how love birds proposed to their loved ones? They say, "Let me call you tweet heart!"

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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