Movie, walk, small gift, love letter - Valentine's Day is quickly approaching. Skeptics will say: "It's not our holiday, and it's commercialized." It is worth remembering, however, that its origin dates back to ancient Rome, and the Church made a solid contribution to its dissemination.
"A manifestation of Americanization of culture!" - shout the opponents of Valentine's Day and... they are right to some extent. Store windows plastered with hearts, sweet as icing advertisements, love cards sent left and right - this is a relatively recent custom. It appeared in Poland with the expansion of satellite television, the internet and shopping malls. It became one of the signs of belonging to the West, but also a symbol of cultural homogenization, but above all a vehicle driving sales. But the holiday celebrated on February 14th has a much older origin than one might think.
The roots of the holiday go back to ancient Rome. In the middle of February, nature in southern Europe slowly comes to life. The air becomes warmer and more fragrant, the first thrushes can be heard. All this heralds the imminent arrival of spring - a time of rebirth, new opportunities, a time of pairing and love. The perfect moment to celebrate. The Romans therefore honored the god of fertility Faunus Lupercus. One of the versions of the so-called Lupercalia was the drawing of a chosen one. The boys drew cards with the names of girls from the urn. The pairs created in this way met for the next few months. Sometimes it ended in marriage, other times not, but the custom was so popular that it survived the fall of Rome and the old religion. It was only Pope Gelazjuż I who banned it at the end of the 5th century. However, he did so with the caution typical of Christians at the time. To avoid angering the people, the old holiday was replaced with a new one. As for the date and rules, both were almost identical, except that the new one had a Christian saint as its patron. And so the Romans began to celebrate St. Valentine's Day.
Who was this patron? There is no agreement on this. According to one theory, it was a priest living in the 3rd century. At that time, Emperor Claudius Gocki ruled in Rome, who issued an edict prohibiting marriage for men aged 18 to 37. According to the ruler, instead of thinking about family, they should have served in the army. People didn't like it very much, and Valentine took their side. In his church, he still performed weddings, which angered the emperor. He ordered the priest to be thrown into a dungeon, tortured, and finally executed. Valentine himself had time to make friends with the jailer's daughter in prison. Just before his death, he sent her a note with greetings, signed: "From your Valentine". That's how the first Valentine's card was supposed to look. But there is another theory. According to it, the patron of the holiday of lovers was the bishop of Terni, who lived a little earlier, and who was famous for his fiery sermons about the love of Christ and the union of a certain Christian and a pagan by a loving bond. Some researchers are inclined to believe that Valentine from Rome and Valentine from Terni are actually the same person. Ultimately, however, it probably doesn't matter that much, although today it is the second of these cities that is considered the main center of the cult of the saint. In the local basilica you can see a silver sarcophagus with the relics of the bishop, on which is inscribed: "Saint Valentine, patron of love". On February 14, engaged couples from all over Italy come to the temple to swear love to each other, and couples with a long history renew their marriage vows. In 1997, Pope John Paul II even sent a special message to the participants of the holiday, and this fact was immortalized by the installation of a marble plaque.
The cult of the saint from the lovers soon spread around the world. Of course, it also reached Poland. Valentine became the patron of Przemyśl, and his relics were among others in the churches in Krobi in Greater Poland and Chełmno. Every year on February 14, solemn masses are celebrated there and indulgences are organized. Hence, however, it is still far from the parties that are now associated with Valentine's Day.Let's go back to the West. There, despite the "takeover" of the holiday by the Church, its playful aspect has not disappeared. February 14 has always been an opportunity to show your chosen one (rarely chosen) if not love, then at least interest. In France, men have been sending flowers to women for hundreds of years, in Great Britain and the United States - short, often humorous notes, or hearts cut out of cardboard. Valentine's Day was very popular in southern Germany and Tyrol, where colorful parades were organized. It was from there that the custom began to spread to Polish lands, but it did not gain much popularity for a long time. This changed only in the nineties of the last century, when Poland firmly settled in the free market reality. At that time, Valentine's Day already had the flavor of a shopping and pop culture holiday. Poles largely copied the Western look, but ... somewhere they tried to make it have a local character. This happened, for example, in the aforementioned Chełmno, which proclaimed itself the city of love. The celebrations of the holiday of lovers last there for several days. Competitions and concerts are organized, including a festival of love songs. A Valentine's Fair is spread out in the city. On the stalls you can buy handicrafts, souvenirs, but also local culinary specialties - Valentine's buns with lubczyk and sweets in the shape of a heart. On February 14, the townspeople lay a large heart of burning lanterns in the market square. A few years ago it was entered into the Polish Book of Records and Curiosities. Chełmno has its benches of lovers, a fence to which they pin "locks of love", two intertwined flower hearts have been erected in the city park, where couples like to take pictures on warm days, and a walk through the old town can be taken along the path of lovers. But that's not all, because on February 14 the city also reminds of its "own" saint. In the Chełmno parish, priests exhibit the relics of St. Valentine, and then hold a solemn Mass with a message for couples and marriages.
So Chełmno has made Valentine's Day its trademark and promotional weapon. But not only it tries to take advantage of the holiday of lovers. Just take a look at the internet, where promotion follows promotion. A large mobile phone operator offers two Valentine's contracts at a preferential price - just right for a couple. The carrier invites to a Valentine's cruise across the Baltic. Of course for a couple in love. Hotels tempt with offers of weekends for lovers - in the mountains, by the sea, in beautiful forests. Everyone will surely find something for themselves. So is it a holiday of commerce and trade? Absolutely. A manifestation of Western fashion? Undoubtedly. But there is nothing to be offended about. After all, we buy without Valentine's Day, and it is always worth fishing for opportunities. Not to mention that everyone without exception has a good reason to show a little feeling to another person.
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