Letters to Ladies

By
February 13, 2003

Mills College Weekly

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. Although there are several myths on the origin of Valentine’s Day, one legend tells us that St. Valentine was first a woman.

Before St. Valentine took over the holiday, it belonged to the Goddess Juno. Valentine’s Day started during the Roman Empire to honor Juno, the Goddess of women and marriage.

The celebration took place on Feb. 15, which began the Feast of Lupercalia. The Romans used this feast to celebrate and pair-up couples.

Boys would pull girls names from a jar that could become their partner or future wife. Perhaps this was the first tribute to love as a holiday.

Pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavored to do away with the pagan elements in honoring Juno and substituted the name of a Saint for that of the Goddess.

And as the Feast of Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine’s Day for the celebration of the new feast.

This is just one of the many versions of the origin of Valentine’s Day.

According to another legend, 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. This, in the end cost him his life.

The final legend is attributed to a greeting, where a man named Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself. He was a prisoner who fell in love with the jailer’s daughter.

Before his death, he allegedly wrote her a letter, which he signed, “from your Valentine,” an expression that is still used today.

Although the holiday’s origins are shrouded in myth, people continue to celebrate it in various ways-some not at all.

Contemporary day valentines now seem to mirror more of the previous legend. The essence of the holiday is the celebration of romance.

Today, however, we send more than just greetings-flowers, chocolate, even expensive jewelry is common on the buyers list.

Some feel that Valentine’s Day gives friends and couples a spotlight to express their affection for one another and to celebrate lovers.

“It is a day to reaffirm your love with tokens of affection,” said senior Erin Mandeson.

“However, it is a product of some capitalist to make us buy gifts, but it’s sweet and makes you slow down and stop and take the time to tell loved ones you appreciate them.”

“If you love someone you should tell them everyday,” said junior Olivia Mora. “Valentine’s Day is just about balloons and roses.”

Amid the frenzy of holiday shopping, some chose to boycott the holiday altogether and perceive it as a corporate ritual.

“It is all a conspiracy with the Hallmark and chocolate companies,” said junior Kristen Studer. “It promotes a coupling society.”

Even though the cupid’s arrow may hit your pocket book more often than your heart, Valentine’s Day will still be remembered for romanticism and love.


Letters to Ladies was published on February 13, 2003 in Arts & Entertainment

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