Whether you love or hate Valentine’s Day, one thing’s clear: Valentine’s Day history goes way back. Valentine’s Day happens on February 14th. People worldwide exchange candy, flowers, and gifts to show love. But who is this St. Valentine, and why do we celebrate this day? Let’s explore the history of the ancient Roman celebration of Luperca.
Valentine’s Day wasn’t always about Cupids and hearts. It’s named after St. Valentine, but the story goes back even further. According to The New York Times, the holiday might have roots in the ancient pagan festival called Lupercalia. This festival happened before Christianity. Like today’s Valentine’s Day, the Roman celebration took place in the middle of February and included feasts and people pairing up as partners.
However, unlike our sweet Valentine’s Day, Lupercalia was a bit wild and involved some strange customs. For Example, they used to sacrifice a goat, cut its hide into strips, and dip them in blood. Then, priests would go around slapping women with these bloodied strips. Surprisingly, people thought this was a good thing because they believed it would make the women more fertile in the coming year. So, there’s still a connection to the color red, but it’s not the romantic one we know today.
When Romans started to follow Christianity instead of their old pagan beliefs, they changed the holiday. Lupercalia, the wild celebration, was banned in the late 5th century. Right around that time, Pope Gelasius said February 14 would be St. Valentine’s Day. That’s how things shifted from the rowdy old party to a day honoring St. Valentine.
Who Was The Saint Valentine?
The origins of Valentine’s Day are a bit mysterious, and the history of the holiday and its patron saint is not clear. What we do know is that February has always been linked to romance, and the Valentine’s Day we celebrate now has bits from both Christian and ancient Roman traditions. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he get connected to this old custom?
The Catholic Church knows about three saints named Valentine or Valentinus, and all of them became martyrs. According to one story, there was a priest named Valentine in Rome during the third century. When Emperor Claudius II thought that single men made better soldiers, he banned marriage for young guys. But Valentine thought this was unfair, so he kept marrying young couples in secret.
When Claudius found out, he ordered Valentine’s execution. Some folks believe it was Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop, who inspired the holiday. He also got beheaded by Claudius II outside Rome. There are other stories suggesting that Valentine might have been killed for helping Christians escape from tough Roman prisons where they faced a lot of beating and torture. According to one tale, Valentine, who was in prison, sent the first “valentine” to a young girl – maybe the daughter of his jailor – whom he fell in love with during his time in confinement.
Before he died, he supposedly wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” a phrase still used today. Though the truth about the Valentine stories is a bit unclear, all the stories highlight him as a sympathetic, brave, and most importantly, a romantic figure. Because of this reputation, by the Middle Ages, Valentine became one of the most loved saints in England and France.
Who Was Cupid?
When we think about Valentine’s Day, we imagine pink hearts, red roses, and chubby little Cupid shooting arrows. But who is Cupid, and why is he the mascot for February 14? Turns out, he comes from mythology!
In Greek stories, Cupid is the god of love, and they call him Eros. Just like many other gods, there are different tales about where he came from. Some say he’s the child of Chaos or Nyx in early stories. Later on, they say he’s Aphrodite’s son, the goddess of love and beauty.
And, get this, he could be the son of Hermes, Ares, or Zeus. According to History.com, Eros was a good-looking, winged immortal who liked to mess with the feelings of both gods and people. He used golden arrows to make love happen and leaden arrows to stir up dislike.
Later on, when the Romans looked at Greek stories, they called Eros by a new name – Cupid, which comes from the word “desire.” They thought of him as the child of Venus, the goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war. As time went on, Roman art started showing Cupid as a playful and cheeky little angel, usually naked, with wings – kind of like the Cupid we know today!
Because of this connection to love, in the 19th century, the Victorians started putting the cherubic version of Cupid on Valentine’s Day cards. And guess what? We still see that trend today!
Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day changed over time and became more about romantic love, and we might owe thanks to the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. The Times mentions Jack B. Oruch, an English professor from the University of Kansas, who strongly believed that Chaucer played a big role in shaping our modern ideas about Valentine’s Day.
Oruch argued that there wasn’t much written evidence connecting romance to St. Valentine’s Day until Chaucer wrote his works in the 14th century, like “The Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars.” In the first one, there’s a poem about birds picking their mates on “Seynt Valentynes day”. Some also give credit to William Shakespeare for making Valentine’s Day more about romance.
A few fun facts Related To Valentine’s Day
Here are a few fun facts related to this day you might have not known:
In a few countries, Valentine’s Day is not allowed because of religious reasons. For instance, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia think that celebrating Valentine’s Day goes against their culture, so they have made it forbidden.
The first Valentine’s gift we know about is a poem. Charles, the Duke of Orléans, wrote it to his wife while he was stuck in the Tower of London in 1415.
Ever heard of International Quirkyalone Day? It’s a special day for people who are single, and it happens on Valentine’s Day. It’s not exactly against Valentine’s Day, but more of a time to appreciate self-love and close friendships.
There’s this cool thing called Galentine’s Day that got popular after it was shown on the TV show Parks and Recreation. It happens on February 13th and is all about women celebrating their awesome friendships with each other.
Approximately 6 million couples are said to get engaged every year on this romantic holiday.
Every year, about 14 million cards get made and sent during Valentine’s Day and the days around it.
Around 36 million heart-shaped boxes are sold each year on Valentine’s Day. People use these boxes to pack chocolates, gifts, or anything that holds special meaning.
Research shows that 64% of men worldwide don’t plan Valentine’s Day ahead of time. They usually go for spontaneous ideas, like a surprise date night.
People started using the color red and the heart shape in art during the 14th and 15th century in medieval times.
Valentine’s Day is a special occasion to express love, appreciation, and affection for your loved ones. Whether you choose to follow traditional customs or create your own unique celebrations, the essence of this day remains the same – celebrating the joy of love.
From its ancient origins to its modern-day celebrations, Valentine’s Day has evolved into a day filled with traditions, fun facts, and heartfelt gestures. It is a day to show your loved ones how much they mean to you, whether through gifts, crafts, quotes, or delicious treats.
So, this Valentine’s Day, take the time to celebrate love in all its forms. Show appreciation for your partner, friends, and family members who bring love and joy into your life. Make this day memorable with thoughtful gestures, heartfelt messages, and quality time spent together.