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Desert Diary
Culture/Valentine's Day


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Ah, Valentine's Day, the day of love, named after Saint Valentine (or, for our Mexican friends, San Valentín). Or so the story goes. There are a few problems, though. For one, there appears to have been three Saint Valentines, all martyred on the 14 of February (though not in the same year). The most popular candidate was a Roman priest of the 3rd century who, shortly before he was executed, sent a note to a female friend signed "From your Valentine".

Of course, as we all know, holidays don't always match the politically correct story. Most authorities trace the origins to other sources. According to one account, people in medieval Europe began sending love letters on the 14th; not incidentally, the folk belief was that birds began to mate on that date. Perhaps more likely is the early Christian takeover of the Roman feast of Lupercalia, which honored Juno, goddess of women and marriage, and which was held on the 14th of February and included the writing of love notes.

Whatever the true story, Happy Valentine's Day!
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.