The Cretan Valentine does not go to fancy restaurants, luxurious confectioners and shopping malls. Instead, he opts for nature and the open air, music, song and dance.
February the 14th typically brings along red roses, heart-shaped candy, spicy lingerie and the mandatory fancy restaurant dinner. This year the latter was for obvious reasons skipped, but as tradition demands, the florists got their share of traffic. But how did this all come about?
Crowned guardian angel of licit and illicit couples worldwide, Valentine was a priest who secretly married early Christians and for this, martyred under Roman Emperor Claudio’s reign. He is surely the most famous protector of love on the globe, but he is not the only one.
Did you know that here in Crete, we also have our very own version of a tender-hearted, lovey-dovey saint? The Cretan Valentine has less to do with expensive florists and sappy cards. He is though all for romantic walks in the country and picking flowers from the source. What’s more, his feast is in July, so hopefully, circumstances will allow us to celebrate him properly in 2021 too!
Hyacinth: the Cretan Valentine
As the story goes, 20-year-old Hyacinth was Emperor Traianus’ chamberlain. When asked by the latter to denounce Christ, he declined and was thus imprisoned 12 km south of Anogia, in the mountainous area of Fournoi. His wardens gave him nothing but food soaked in the blood of sacrificial animals: A practice which the Christians forbid. Hyacinth refused to touch it and therefore died of starvation after 40 days, on July 3rd, 98 AC. Legend has it that angels guarded his corpse. So while Traianus instructed his remains to be thrown to the beasts, the angels stopped this from happening. Hyacinth was young and inexperienced, but he died for his deep feelings and faith. This Christian myth spurred modern-day troubadour, Loudovikos of Anogia, to build a temple in honour of the Cretan Valentine.
Yakinthia: A cultural festival dedicated to the Cretan Valentine
Standing at 1200 metres, St Hyacinth’s chapel, a circular stone construction, inspired by the late Minoan architecture, has become a symbol of the area. It is also the site of the annual festival of Yakinthia: Inaugurated in 1998 with a tribute to Manos Hatzidakis’ “Magnus Eroticus” (Megalos Erotikos), this multi-artistic three-day feast takes place every year in July. Bringing together Cretan music and traditions with the folkways and melodies of other places in Greece, Yakinthia, is a celebration of joy and love. Popular with professional musicians and art-loving amateurs alike, it has evolved into one of the most esteemed cultural ventures in the Mediterranean.
Today’s cult of Hyacinth, our Cretan Valentine who fosters creativity, pure love and inspiration, starts in Anogia. But his namesake’s worship traces back to ancient traditions: In Greek mythology, Hyacinth was the striking young lover of Gods Apollo and Zephyr who were competing for his affections. In his quest to win over his beau’s heart, one day Apollo was teaching Hyacinth how to throw the discus. Alas, the saucer strayed from its course and wounded the boy’s leg. Out of his blood, Apollo then created the homonymous flower. The myth of Hyacinth who was considered a pre-Hellenic deity of fertility and abundance formed the basis of the ancient festivals of Hyacinthia, celebrated in places like Sparta and Messina.
Antique myths and Christian legends are intertwined in the case of the modern-day Cretan Valentine. The gist, however, is that aside from the prevalent and admittedly over-commercialized St Valentine’s day festivities, we are now presented with an alternative: To celebrate love, and life, in the open air, amidst the luscious Cretan country, with song and dance and raki.
We bet this sounds tempting! In fact, Crete is bristling with a wealth of fascinating customs and traditions. As for all of us at the Oscar Suites and Village Hotel in Chania, we are certainly proud of our folkways and particularities. We’d love to guide you through all this that makes our island special. As soon as it is safe to travel again, come and find us in seaside, vibrant Agia Marina -Platanias. Base yourselves at our studios, one and two-bedroom apartments, or, if all this Valentine’s talk whetted your appetite for romance, go for our luxurious seaview jacuzzi suite. Then it is all about the good life. Whether pampering your taste buds at the Valentino Pasta & Grill, lounging poolside, or exploring the wonders of the old town of Chania, our dedicated Oscar Suites and Village team is at your disposal, to make every moment count.