It's that time of the year when normally sane people go a little nuts and squander their hard-earned cash on candy, cards and flowers for their sweethearts. You can spot these love birds a mile away. They're the ones roaming around with dopey looks on their faces. You know, the glazed eyes and silly grins. I suppose some of you might think that those looks could also be from experimenting with some controlled substance, but I'm voting for love.
If you don't have a sweetheart yet, don't worry. Rumor has it that you might just get lucky on Valentine's Day. He might be hiding behind the statue in front of the Business Education Building, or he could be waiting for you in the Cuddy Center. But keep your eyes open. Cupid, the son of Venus (the Roman goddess of love and beauty,) is waiting to strike unsuspecting UAA students on Feb. 14. I'm told that the naked little cherub is armed with arrows dipped in a love potion and no one is immune to his magic.
How did we, a supposedly educated group of people, come to celebrate Valentine's Day? Research shows that the day to celebrate love started during the Third Century when the Roman Emperor Claudius II, also known as Claudius the Cruel, was having trouble raising an army. He thought the problem lay in the fact that Roman men did not want to leave their wives and lovers for a military campaign that might last for years. Go figure. In an effort to boost his military leagues, the emperor canceled all marriages and engagements in Rome.
A Christian priest named Valentine came to the defense of the lovers in the empire. In defiance of the emperor's orders, Valentine secretly married countless couples. When Claudius learned about the ceremonies, he sent Valentine to prison.
While awaiting execution, Valentine received many letters of support, as well as flowers. One his most ardent admirers turned out to be the daughter of one of his prison guards. On the day of Valentine's execution, Feb. 14, 269 AD, the priest wrote the girl a note expressing his gratitude for her love and friendship and signed it, “Love from your Valentine.”
During this same period in history, mid-February was a time to meet and court potential mates through the festival of Lupercalia, honoring the god of fertility and sensual pleasure. On the eve of the festivities, the names of available Roman girls were placed in jars. Each single Roman boy drew out a name and that girl was to be his sweetheart for the duration of the celebration.
A couple of hundred years later, as Christianity took control of Europe, the Church sought to eliminate pagan holidays. In honor of his sacrifice for love, Valentine was made a saint in 496 AD, by Pope Gelasius, and the festival of Lupercalia was renamed St. Valentine's Day.
So, there you have it. Our modern love day has its roots with an emperor who wanted to make war. Not much has changed, as far as I can tell. After all, that chubby little cupid fellow still zaps folks with arrows. Ouch.