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St. Valentine's Day is the 14th of February and singularly ominous to lovers. Saint Valentine is said to have been a bishop who suffered martydom under the Roman emperor, Claudius, or else under Aurelian in 271. Like many another semi-Christian custom the day set apart to the memory of Saint Valentine in the Christian Calender is an old pagan festival, upon which our ancestors believed that the birds chose their mates for the coming year. This, at least, is the commonly received version of our modern custom of "choosing a valentine" on the 14th of February, and of sending a billet-doux or a fancy "valentine" through the mail to some favored one. Valentine is by several authorities believed to be a corruption of galantin (a lover, a dangler) and St. Valentine was chosen as the patron saint of the lovers on account of his name.
In old Rome the 15th of February was the festival of Juno Februata (Juno the fructifyer), and the Roman Church substituted St. Valentine for the heathen goddess. At that festival, called "Lupercalia", it was customary among other ceremonies, to put the names of young women into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The Christian clergy, finding it difficult or impossible to extirpate the pagan practice and in accordance with their general principle to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstition by retaining the ceremonies, but modifying their significance, gave it a religious aspect by substituting the names of particular saints for those of the women. The saints whose names were drawn were proposed for imitation to the persons who received the slips of paper whereon they were written, and in many religious houses, where this custom still prevails, each member of the community preserves his billet during the year, as an incitement to imitate the virtues and invoke the special intercession of his holy Valentine.
This innovation, however, namely the substitution of the names of saints for the names of lovers, could not please the young people forever. Though the clergy repeatedly forbade the custom of Valentines and ordered the use of cards with Saints' names, the old pagan custom could not be abolished. The boys and girls triumphed over the Saints, and in the end the girls triumphed over the boys wresting from them their exclusive privilege of choosing mates.
This old custom of drawing names is to this day observed in many parts of England and Scotland in the following manner:
A number of slips of paper with the names of an equal number of men and women are shuffled and drawn, so each young man has a valentine in the person of a young maiden, and each maiden draws a young man whom she calls hers. The valentines give each other gifts, and often this little sport ends in love and marriage.
The first young man or maid you meet on the morning of St. Valentine's day will be your future husband or wife.
On St. Valentine's eve pin five bay-leaves on your pillow one in each corner and the other in the middle and you will dream of your Valentine.
If on St. Valentine's day the first person you meet is tall of stature and you sow flax that year, it will grow long and tall, but if the person is short, the flax will grow short and low.
All young ladies should be warned not to entertain gentlemen on the eve of St. Valentine's day, for if they do, they will lose their social position.
If you look down the well on the 14th of February you will see your sweetheart.
If the girl peeps through the keyhole on St. Valentine's Day and sees a cock and hen together, it is a sign that she will be married before the year is out.
If a girl looks out into the street the first thing on St. Valentine's morning, the number of animals which she sees, will tell her just how many years it will be before she marries.
If a girl in old Derbyshire did not have a kiss from a sweetheart the first thing on St. Valentine's morning, it was because she was "dusty" and they swept her well with a broom. This would bring her a lover.
All who walk on St. Valentine's day should wear a yellow crocus; it is the Saint's special flower and will ward off all evil in love.
If you chance on that day to meet a goldfinch or any yellow bird it is extremely lucky.
If you meet a bird in a scarlet vest on St. Valentine's day, you will follow your love to the beat of the drum.
It is very lucky to find your Valentine asleep. If you can steal a kiss, you will surely wed him or her.
If a girl receives a valentine and wishes to find out who sent it, let her write her name on the back of it and right below, the names of the persons whom she imagines might have sent it, then say the following verse:—
"If he who sent this valentine
Is named above with mine,
I pray good saint that by this line
I may his name divine."
Place this under the pillow and she will surely see the one who sent it.
If a maid walks abroad in the morning of St. Valentine's day, she may decide her future husband's position by the aid of the birds. If she first sees:
A blackbird: she will marry a clergyman.
A redbreast: a sailor.
A bunting: a sailor.
A goldfinch: a millionaire.
A yellowbird: a rich man.
A sparrow: love in a cottage.
A bluebird: poverty.
A crossbill: a quarrelsome husband.
A wryneck: she will never marry.
A flock of doves: good luck.
Never sign a valentine even with your own name, it will not be successful.