Today, Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated in many countries on the fourteenth day of the month of February. However, not very many people are aware of its origins.
History of Valentine’s Day
The celebration of Valentine’s Day can be traced all the way back to the time when Ancient Rome flourished. During that time, people used to celebrate the fourteenth day of February in honor of Juno, the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. On the next day, which is the fifteenth day of February, people celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia or Lupercalis. This Feast of Lupercaliais a fertility celebration in honor of Lupercus and Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.
On the eve of the celebration, boys and girls were paired together randomly. The names of the girls are placed on a slip of paper and deposited into containers from which the young boys can draw. Sometimes, the pair will fall in love with each other and eventually marry. This interesting custom set the tone for Valentine’s Day as we know it.
During the rise of Christianity, many of these pagan celebrations were renamed and rededicated to the Christian saints and martyrs. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius dedicated the Feast of Lupercalia in honor of Saint Valentine, and moved the celebration a day earlier. The exact identity of Saint Valentine, however, is still shrouded in mystery. For one thing, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named either Valentine or Valentinus. Another more surprising thing is that all of these three saints were martyred on February 14th.
According to one of the stories, Saint Valentine was a Roman priest who lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II in the 3rd Century. The Emperor found it difficult to recruit soldiers for the army, and he felt that it was because the men did not want to leave their families behind. Because of this, the Emperor ordered all engagements and marriages invalid. Saint Valentine, who found injustice in the decree, started to hold secret marriage celebrations for couples. When this was discovered, he was beaten and killed on February 14th of 270 A.D.
According to another one of the stories, Saint Valentine was arrested and imprisoned first. Aside from being a friend of lovers, Saint Valentine was also said to have saintly healing abilities. The jailer who has a blind daughter requested Saint Valentine to help her see again. The legend says that the priest was somehow able to help the girl. Some say that eventually, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter who continued to visit him during his imprisonment.
Emperor Claudius II also visited Saint Valentine, and was impressed by the priest. The Emperor unsuccessfully tried to convert Saint Valentine to Roman gods. Likewise, the priest also tried to convert the Emperor to Christianity. The Emperor was angered, and he ordered for the execution of the priest. Before his death, Saint Valentine wrote a farewell message for the jailer’s daughter and signed it with “From your Valentine”, which is a phrase still widely used today.
By the 17th century, Valentine’s Day had become quite popular and had continued to be associated with romance. By the 18th Century, giving hand-made cards had become common in England. By 1840, Valentine’s Day greeting cards were produced in the U.S.