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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Valentine's Day - & the Wolf with the Red Roses!

Posted Saturday, July 7, 2007

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Valentine’s Day & The Wolf With The Red Roses:

“O my luve’s like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in………February?

Instead of his sweetheart in June, Robbie Burns could well have written these famous lyrics for Valentine’s Day - for red roses traditionally symbolise true love, romance - and passion.

Over 50 million red roses are traded worldwide on St. Valentine’s Day, with 7 million given in the U.K. – and 90% of them are purchased by men.

Valentine’s Day means big business to the specialist growers who fly red roses into Britain from Columbia, Holland, India, Israel, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Channel Islands at an annual cost of £22 million, - and demand always outstrips supply!

So who was St. Valentine, - and what is the history of St. Valentine’s Day?

Well, it’s all down to the Romans and it is thought that the origins of our modern love-feast date back to the early Roman Feast of Lupercalia.

The Romans would call upon one of their Gods, Lupercus, to keep away the fierce wolves (Lat.Lupus lupus) that roamed the woods, and a Festival in honour of Lupercus was held annually on February 15th.

One of the customs associated with the Festival took place on the eve of Lupercalia when the young Roman girls would each write their name on a piece of parchment and place it inside a clay jar. The following day at the Festival the young men would each select a clay jar and the girl whose name was inside would become his sweetheart for the next year.

The Feast of Lupercalia was also designated a Roman holiday and it was customary for priests in the early Roman church to initiate the Rites of Spring celebration during the Feast of Lupercus.

During the reign of the Emperor Claudius 2nd (214 – 270 AD) much of the Roman Empire remained pagan, although there were divisions within the church which at that time was in the process of embracing Christianity.

One of the dissenting priests in Rome was called Valentinus and he was persecuted by Emperor Claudius and forced into hiding, but a legion of the emperors men captured Valentinus and brought him before the Tribune in Rome where he was sentenced to death. The execution took place in Rome on the Eve of the Feast of Lupercalia, February 14th.

Following the death of Claudius 2nd in 270 AD the Roman Church eventually converted to Christianity and Valentinus was canonized, becoming St. Valentine, and the Roman Church moved the previously pagan Feast of Lupercalia, a Roman Holiday, from February 15th to February 14th and it became known as St. Valentine’s Day.

So if yours is one of the seven million red roses given to a loved one on St. Valentine’s Day, spare a thought for a Roman priest who gave his life in the cause of love almost two thousand years ago, - and who, along the way became the Patron Saint of red rose growers- and lovers the world over!

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