The History of Valentine’s Day

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The History of Valentine’s Day

The history of Valentine’s Day isn’t something one often considers when the holiday comes around every February 14. While it’s common for the world to celebrate with flowers, candies, and gifts for their significant other and loved ones, people don’t often think about the history of the holiday. And while the month of romance seems like a straightforward tradition, the history of Valentine’s Day is not so transparent.

Who was Saint Valentine?

The question of¬†Saint Valentine’s¬†identity seems simple, but the answer may not be so clear. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three saints as Valentine or Valentinus. All three were martyrs. Some stories say Saint Valentine would continue to perform marriages for young men after it was outlawed by¬†Emperor Claudius II¬†when he discovered single men made for better soldiers. A separate story suggests another Saint Valentine may have been helping Christians escape Roman prisons. The legend says that an imprisoned man named Valentine sent the first Valentine’s letter to a girl with whom he fell in love. Just before his execution, the lore states he sent one final letter signed, ‚ÄúFrom your Valentine.‚ÄĚ The signature became the expression still commonly used today. While the stories and legends of Saint Valentine are murky at best, Valentine‚Äôs Day only became associated with romance in the late Middle Ages, thanks to the writings of the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.

The Pagan History of Valentine’s Day

While the history of Valentine’s Day tends to focus on Catholic stories and legends, there was also a pagan holiday that occurred on February 15. Some believe the Catholic Church purposefully chose to make February 14 the official Valentine’s Day to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a Roman tradition. The Romans regarded Lupercalia as a time about fertility and celebrating Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture. Honoring Rome’s founders, Romulus and Remus, was also a reason for the celebration. During Lupercalia, Roman priests would take a goat hide, dipped in sacrificial blood, and gently press it to their crops and women, believing it would help the women grow more fertile and the crops more plentiful. Then, women would put their names in an urn, and the city bachelors would pick a name and become paired with his chosen woman. More often than not, these pairings ended in marriage.

Whatever the true history of Valentine’s Day, remember that it is a day to share with the people you love. So next time you celebrate with your wife, husband, or significant other, take a moment to reflect on the holiday’s history. If you enjoyed this article, check out Veterans Day.

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