Valentine’s Day is over…

…but it’s still February, and what better time to share how Valentine’s Day began in romantic Italy.

Legends abound over the origin of this special day. The majority agree that it was named after a Roman martyr who lived in the 4th century. San Valentino was believed to be born in the Umbrian town of Terni. I’m sure there are other Italian towns who have claimed his birthright at one time or another. But the many different reasons for setting aside February 14th dedicated to love are still debated. There were three priests named Valentino. But was the above mentioned the namesake?

One theory was, in ancient times Emperor Claudius II forbade his soldiers to marry. He believed women would be a distraction. Valentino (also said to be a bishop) encouraged the young to wed and even held secret ceremonies. For that bit of defiance, the priest was sent to prison and executed on February 14th. While awaiting his execution, it is said he fell in love with the daughter of a jailer, passing love notes between them, thus associating the day of his demise with love.

Another version of San Valentino says he was “renowned for his chastity.” If that was so, why then would a lovers’ holiday be named after him? One more version tells of Pope Paul II giving gifts to poor women. The 14th of February, 1465, was set aside for the first ceremony. By that time, Valentino’s sainthood had been celebrated for 1000 years.

Or had Valentino been executed because he refused to worship pagan gods? That’s just one more tale about the beginning of Valentine’s Day.

Through the Middle Ages, the 14th indicated courtships, betrothals and, ultimately, marriages. It was known as the Spring Festival in Italy, which dates back to ancient times. The day was for young people in love who would gather in gardens and listen to music and poetry. By medieval times, the tradition peaked and the custom waned for centuries.

I find this next story amusing. In Italy, an unmarried girl would awake on the morning of Saint Valentine’s Day, and the first man she sees will become her husband within a year. And if not that man, then any man who looked like him would do.

Il giorno della festa degli innamorati – a celebration for couples and lovers

Today, most Italians in Italy see this holiday as a U.S. import. However, in the Italian’s grand tradition, they celebrate with passion. Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day has become as commercialized in Italy as it is in the U.S. Chocolates, flowers, perfume, and jewelry keep cash registers ringing and many women happy. And skimpy lingerie is enough to get any man excited. No matter how you say I love you, the language of love is universal.

Here are a few phrases to learn for Valentine’s Day 2013, or throughout the remainder of this year.

l’amante = lover
i baci = kisses
il cioccolatini = chocolate (very important )
il diamante = diamond (now we’re talking)
i fiori = flowers (truly romantic)
il mio tesoro = my darling (literally: my treasure)

And a bonus:
Fa così caldo qui o e la tua presenza?
(Is it hot in here, or is it just you?)

That well-used pick-up line sounds so romantic in Italian. What do you think?
Jannine Corti Petska

(Book 2, Italian medieval series)

by Jannine Corti Petska

Avaible from the Wild Rose Press

Prima Ranieri seeks retribution for her family's death and loss of home and land. Her plans go awry when the heir to the powerful Massaro family returns home. After only one glance, Prima's attraction to him undermines her furor toward those she blames for her plight.

After a fifteen year absence, Antonio Massaro returns to Palermo to find a war raging between his family and the evil Falcone. His refusal to accept his rightful position as the head of the Honored Society carries serious consequences. The welfare of the people of Palermo is at stake. But one look at the beautiful woman Prima has become costs him his heart. She's a deadly that jeopardizes her life as well as his own.

Prima and Antonio are out for a pleasure ride and stop in an orchard. Prima sets Antonio straight on the matter of her marrying.

“Think you age is on your side?”

She bristled. “I am not yet beyond marriageable age, or hindered like an old hag. But do tell, why must I have a husband?”

“You need a man, Prima, for you are like a wild horse before it is captured and tamed.”

“Such an insult! I’ll not be compared to an animal. And neither must I be captured or tamed.” She jerked on Amica’s reins, startling the horse. Antonio held the leather lines, preventing the horse from bolting.

“You act as if you are the only person ever to lose family. This bitter revenge you carry will one day turn you into a mean and spiteful old woman. Give up your fight. Marry and have children.”

“And bring them into a world of greed and senseless killing? I’ll not birth a son who is expected to rule and dominate solely because he is a man. And I’ll not birth a daughter who will be forced to bend to a man’s will simply because she is a female. Marriage is not a path I favor. I want the freedom to choose how I ride a horse and to decide on the clothes I wear.”

“Those ideas will bode ill for you, Prima. You alone cannot change a society.”

“No, but I alone can choose my path in life; and no man will ever take that away from me.”

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