Origins of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday celebrated in many countries such as the USA and UK. As everyone already knows, it is commonly used to celebrate romance, usually for romantic couples, although some people use the opportunity to celebrate with friends instead. Unlike other popular holidays, like Christmas or Easter, Valentine’s Day’s origin is not commonly known. It has multiple stories that could be considered to be the creation of Valentine’s Day, but most people don’t know all the stories that are rumoured to be the day’s origin. This article will contain the two most common stories, it is up to your interpretation to decide which story seems to be the most likely to be the beginning of the holiday!

Heart cut into a bush

Saint Valentine

A couple of the stories stem from Christian and Roman beginnings. The Catholic Church recognises a couple of Saints named Valentine or Valentinus, whose stories ended in them being martyred. One story tells of Saint Valentine in the third century in Rome taking pity on young men who had been banned from getting married by Emperor Claudius II. He believed that single men made better soldiers than married men with families and so banned them from getting married. As a priest, Saint Valentine would help marry young lovers but was caught and then executed for his actions. Some people insist that the Saint Valentine being referenced is Saint Valentine of Terni who was a bishop that also got executed by the same Emperor outside Rome. There is also another legend of a priest that signed a letter to his jailor’s daughter “from your Valentine” whom he may have had a relationship with, he was also executed. This is said to be why letters are now commonly addressed at the end with “from your Valentine”. Some even debate whether these legends might be of the same person rather than them all being different Valentines. The most common factor that these stories share is that they all involve being martyred, this could be why Saint Valentine became quite a popular patron in the Middle Ages. 

Lupercalia

Lupercalia is said to be a pagan festival with Roman origins that was held in mid-February. The St. Valentine feast was rumoured to be set in mid-February by the Christian church to Christianize the pagan holiday. Lupercalia was a festival dedicated to the Roman God of agriculture, Faunus and the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. The festival was meant to be dedicated specifically to fertility. An order of Roman priests, called the Luperci, would gather in the cave where Romulus and Remus were said to be raised by a she-wolf. They would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. The goat hide was then made into strips and would be used to gently slap Roman women and crop fields to promote fertility. Women would also put their names in an urn, where men in turn would pick out a name. They would then be matched for the rest of the year, where some would even end up marrying. This festival filled with myths has been argued to be the real origin of St. Valentine’s Day. 

These are the main legends that are known and commonly debated about which would be the real origin of St. Valentine’s Day. Whether it was a combination of all the legends or just one, the holiday became extremely popular and celebrated in the 14th century. Now it is used to celebrate the love between romantic couples but now also celebrated between friends as well. Whichever story you choose to believe in, I hope that you can enjoy Valentine’s Day in whichever way you choose, even if you choose not to celebrate it!  

This article was written with help from https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2 and https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day

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