Valentine’s Day has its origins in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated every year in honor of Lupercus, the god of fertility and Juno, queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. At one point in the festival, on the evening of Feb. 14, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
As Christianity became prevalent, priests attempted to replace old Pagan practices, so to Christianize the celebration of the Feast of Lupercus, church officials changed the name. The most popular candidate for Saint Valentine was a third-century Roman priest who performed secret marriages against direct orders from Emperor Claudius II, who believed single men were more likely to join his army. Saint Valentine had been beheaded for helping young lovers marry against the wishes of the mad emperor. Legend also has it that before execution, Valentine himself had fallen in love with his jailer’s daughter. He signed his final note to her, “From your Valentine,” a phrase that has lasted through the centuries. In recognition of his sacrifice for love … and to lure people away from celebrating the Pagan way … Lupercalia was renamed.
There is also speculation among linguistic scholars that the name “Valentine” has Pagan origins. It was customary for French peasants of the Middle Ages to pronounce a “g” as a “v.” Consequently, the original term may have been the French “galantine,” which yields the English word “gallant.” The word originally refers to a dashing young man known for his “affaires d’amour,” a true galaunt. This seems a plausible explanation since Valentine’s Day has always been associated with the secular pleasures of flirtation and courtly love.
Cos Altobelli is a third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness.
He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser from the American Gem Society, is the author of three appraisal books, and has appeared on “Primetime Live” several times.
Mr. Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.