Last night was our 131st monthiversary. Billie and I decided early on after we got married in 1998 that we would celebrate our anniversary every month, rather than every year, so last night we went to a St. Valentine's day dinner dance to celebrate our monthiversary. While enjoying the food and the music, I wondered about St. Valentine: who was he, and how did all this February 14th stuff start?
So today I googled him. The first link I found was broken, but Wikipedia, as usual, turned out to have more information than I could possibly use. Mostly, it says that he is a melange of multiple martyrs, but this quotation is the most succint:
Historian Jack Oruch has made the case that the traditions associated with "Valentine's Day", documented in Geoffrey Chaucer's Parliament of Foules and set in the fictional context of an old tradition, had no such tradition before Chaucer. He argues that the speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among 18th-century antiquaries, notably Alban Butler, the author of Butler's Lives of Saints, and have been perpetuated even by respectable modern scholars. In the French 14th-century manuscript illumination from a Vies des Saints (illustration above), Saint Valentine, bishop of Terni, oversees the construction of his basilica at Terni; there is no suggestion here yet that the bishop was a patron of lovers.Sadly, then, he's probably just a legend. Even if I had known that, though, I don't think it would have stopped us from having a great monthiversary celebration. And next month is our anniversary, so we'll do something really special then!