The Name of the Rose


February 2020  

The Name of the Rose

Would February be the same if it weren’t for Valentine’s Day?

The magical month of February came by its romantic connotation the hard way. It was named Februarius by the Romans after the Latin term februum, which means purification, with a ritual held on February 15 (full moon) in the old lunar Roman calendar. February was one of the last months to be added to the Roman calendar, since winter was considered a monthless period. A few not-so-romantic names are Solmonath (Old English for “mud month”) and Kale-monath (for cabbage). The Finns got a little closer to at least a poetic feeling by naming the month of February helmikuu (month of pearls). When snow melted on tree branches, it formed droplets of ice that resembled pearls. Kinda nice, right?

So, when and how did romance officially enter the picture? Again, it took a while, starting with the imprisonment of Saint Valentine of Rome, who ministered to persecuted Christians in 3rd-century Rome. The romantic embellishment was added later, in the 18th century, avowing that he wrote the jailer’s daughter (whom he cured of blindness) a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a fond farewell before he was executed. Courtly love in the 14th and 15th centuries, associated with lovebirds that appeared in early spring, slowly grew into a time to express feelings of love through gifts of flowers, candy, and cards (called “valentines”).

In Italy, St. Valentine tokens were thought to prevent attacks of epilepsy, and an equally non-romantic moment occurred in Chicago’s North Side in 1929 where seven gang members were violently murdered (the “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre”).

After considering the down-side of Valentine’s Day, it occurs to me that, while chocolate is always a good idea (like Paris), that little guy called Cupid is holding … a weapon?

Thanks for walking through the corridor with me.


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