Ante Diem XVI Kalendas March
Modern Date : February 14th
Ante Diem XVI Kalendas March
Sixteenth Day to the Kalends of March
This is one of the dies nefasti (N), a day on which no legal action or public voting could take place. The dies nefasti of February were days of religious ceremony honoring the dead and heralding the rebirth of the Spring and its associated fertility.
The Parentalia was a celebratory period in which ancestors were honored. It lasted from February 13 through the 21st. The temples would all be closed during this period. Offerings of small amounts of wine, bread, a sprinling of salt, or flowers were made at the tombs.
February is also a month in which particular reverence was shown to the spirits of deceased ancestors. This was a month devoted to fertility, both of men and women, and of the land.
In Christian calendars, Valentine's Day, the famous feast of the lovers. According to one legend from Greece, which has been celebrating Eros, erotic love, on this day since very ancient times, this is the day on which young doves mate during the transition from winter to spring. As doves mate for life and live in a happy fidelity that other beings rarely approach, 2/14 has embodied ever since the loyalty of true love. The symbol that has stuck for this day is the heart pierced by an arrow, fired by (who else?) Eros (Cupid), who has always ruled this day.
There is no connection between this holiday and either of the two St Valentines (a Roman priest martyred in the third century and a martyred bishop) although many legends have been invented to explain it. One story says that Claudius II during a time of unpopular military campaigns cancelled all marriages and engagements, hoping thereby to channel the energy of the young men into the martial arts. Supposedly Valentine, a priest in Rome during this time, secretly married couples, thus incurring the wrath of the emperor and martyrdom.
The custom of sending valentines may derive from the custom of drawing lots (names of partners) at the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia or with the worship of Juno Februata in whose honor on the eve of her feastday (Feb 15), according to "Lives of the Saints", boys drew names of girls. St Francis de Sales trying to abolish this heathen practice in the mid-sixteenth century suggested drawing the names of the saints (with boys drawing the names of female saints, and vice versa). This does not seem to have caught on. According to Hutton(The Rise and Fall of Merry England), the custom of sending valentines began in England in the 15th century, and was more popular at first among the middle classes, who sent signed valentines (not anonymous ones). In Japan it is now the custom for women to give chocolates to men on this day, particularly their superiors at work.
In the Middle Ages, people believed that birds chose their mates on this day. This was the time of year when the courtship flights of birds, particularly of members of the crow family, were visible.
There was a folk superstition, mentioned by Shakespeare that the first person you meet on Valentine's Day will be your true love. Ophelia plays with this idea when she says to Hamlet
Good morrow, 'tis St Valentine's Day
All in the morn betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your valentine.
Month of Parmuti
In the ancient Egyptian calendar, the month of Parmuti begins on this day. The Neter associated with this month is Renenutet, the serpent-headed protector of children and goddess of good fortune and fertility.
Bulgarians celebrate the patron saint of vineyards (on either this day or the 17 of February) by pouring out a libation of red wine on the earth, ceremonially pruning vine shoots, electing a Vine-king and dancing in masks. The ceremonies in his honor completely incorporate elements from the Thracian cult of Dionysus.