Each February 14th, all across the US, many of us exchange flowers, candy, special gifts to our Valentine, but how did this special holiday celebrating love come to be?
Though no one has been able to pinpoint the exact origin of this holiday, there are several stories as to where it could have originated from. Was it the tragic – or brave, depending which version you’ve heard of – tale of Saint Valentine’s declaration of love? Or can we attribute this unofficial holiday to the belief that February 14th is the first day of the beginning of birds’ mating season?
Some historians believe that the first celebration that inspired Valentine’s Day is the feast of Lupercalia. It is believed that women who attended the festival would be coupled at this Lupercalia festival. The women would first place their name into a jar, in which men would draw names, to be coupled for the remaining of the Lupercalia festival. Sometimes these “matches” would extend for a longer period of time, outside of the festival dates (3 days).
Think that’s wild? There’s more…
According to a recent article published by National Public Radio, the Romans are theorized to have sacrificed a goat and a dog, then use the hides of the animals to physically whip women into fertility.
Another origin story for Valentine’s Day can date back to Emperor Claudius II. Researchers claim that “Valentine was a priest turned martyr” and his beheading occurred on February 14, 260 or 270 ACE.
What’s more is that years later, another man was also executed on February 14th by Emperor Claudius II. The men were executed due to their defiance of Claudius’ decree of banning marriages. Claudius believed that his army would be stronger and more men would likely join if they didn’t have attachments, such as wives and families. According to this origin, one of the Valentines performed marriages in secret, but unfortunately was discovered and sentenced to death.
Nonetheless, the exact origins and the identity of St. Valentine is unclear until this day. It is believed to have three DIFFERENT Valentines through history –a priest in Rome, a bishop of Interamna (now Terni Italy) and the third was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa. All three of them were honored for their martyrdom by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.
In later years, Pope Gelasius I used St. Valentine’s Day to overshadow the pagan ritual, Lupercalia because it was considered “un-Christian’, however, at this point, the celebration was purely theatrical. M
Middle Ages – ah, yes, the first time we began to associate Valentine with love. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the holiday finally became associated with love. This came to be as France and England also believed February 14th to be the beginning of birds’ mating season. Valentine’s greetings were becoming popular.
The oldest known valentine and is currently housed in the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. The Valentine is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans in 1415. It was written to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after his capture from the Battle of Agincourt, one of many battles during the Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453) under King Henry V’s reign. In fact, it is believed that King Henry V employed a writer, John Lydgate, to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
As the holiday gained in popularity, different types of tokens of affections arose including places that created handmade paper cards in the 1700s. Handmade cards became so popular that in the 1840s, Esther A. Howland started selling in mass production in the US. She later became known as the “Mother of Valentine” due to her elaborate and unique creations.
However, as technology improved the process in which letters were created changed and printed cards became commonplace. Cards were made readily available and in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines and now has since been sometimes nicknamed a “Hallmark Holiday.” T
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in several parts of the world including Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, and United Kingdom – which doesn’t mean different countries don’t have their own versions like Brazil’s Dia dos Namorados (Lovers’ Day) celebrated on June 12 due to the date’s closeness to Saint Anthony.
The holiday is one of the biggest business in the world and contributes to many industries such as restaurant, entertainment, and especially cards. According to the Greeting Card Association, over 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making it the second highest day cards exchanged – of course, Christmas being number one.
As such this is the history of Valentine’s Day as we know today. Many will demonstrate grand gestures and others may simply spend quality time together. Some might observe the SAD (Single Awareness Day), which is an alternative to the romantic holiday. But as long as it’s not how early Romans did celebrate, many people look forward to the delightful day of love. How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?