Two Valentine Tournaments

02.13.07 Come out and shake off the cold this weekend with your choice of two tournaments: The Saint Valentine's Day Quads at the University of Maine, Orono and the Washington County Chess Federation Ferbuary Swiss in Pembroke. Information on the tournaments and the history of Saint Valentine's Day courtesy of

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Saint Valentine's Day Massacre

Washington County Chess Federation February Swiss

St. Valentine's Day

On the 14th of February many countries will be celebrating (and I use that term loosely) St Valentine’Äôs day and I thought today I would talk a little about this day ’Äì its origins, who St Valentine could have been.

So what are the origins of St Valentine’Äôs Day and why is it in February? Well the linking of the middle of February and fertility dates back the pre-history. We know that the ancient Athenians celebrated the period between mid January and mid February as a recognition of the sacred marriage between Zeus and Hera ’Äì King and Queen of the Gods.

This theme carries on into Ancient Rome, who borrowed many religious festivals from the Greeks and other cultures. The 15th February was the festival of Lupercus who was the god of fertility. He was often represented as a half-naked man, dressed in goat skins with an oversized and engorged phallus. Goats would be sacrificed to honour the god and the priests would then drink wine and run through the streets holding pieces of the goat skin above their heads. Young women would often come forward to be touched by the priests believing that this would ensure their fruitfulness and any women who were pregnant would have easy births.

This practise of course was frowned upon by the early Christian church and to help curb the ’ÄúPagan’Äù practise this festival was incorporated into the Christian calendar, but changed to be a time of blessing to betrothed couples for the coming marriage season. References to the sexual aspect were removed and emphasis was placed on the sanctity of marriage and intercession of St Valentine was introduced. The practise sacrifice was also removed and replaced blessings by the priest and the giving of small symbolic gifts.

During the later Medieval period it was common for the betrothed to exchange notes and call each other their ’ÄúValentines’Äù. Most of the legends about St Valentine seem to have originated in the 14th century.

One states that on the night before St Valentine was martyred for being a Christian he passed a note of love to his gaoler’Äôs daughter. The letter detailed his love for the girl and he signed it ’ÄúFrom your Valentine’Äù

A second legend says that Emperor Claudius II had placed a ban on marriages. St Valentine would travel the city and secretly perform and consecrate marriages for people until he was found out and martyred.

There are at least three different St Valentines within the Roman Rite of the Christian Church. All of these saints were martyred on the date of the 14th February. One of these martyrs has been described as a priest in Rome and the second was a bishop in Interamna. Both of these men seem to have been tortured and killed between the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The 3rd St Valentine was killed in Africa with a number of his companions or followers - there is little else known.

A forth Valentine of Valentinus was not venerated on within the church as his teachings were declared heretical and his works were suppressed. He was considered a divisive figure because of his teachings on sexual freedom and liberation of lovers ’Äì saying that sexual contact was acceptable before marriage and that sex for pleasure was a gift from God.

The feast day of St Valentine was removed from the Latin and Eastern Catholic calendar’Äôs in 1969 as part of a ’Äúclean-up’Äù of saints with legendary origins. However, any churches that were dedicated to the Saint are still entitled to celebrate the day but not as a day of veneration.

There is a legends that says on the 14th February the birds began to pair and you will hear this reference in Chaucer’Äôs Parliament of Fowls:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

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