On the 14th February people across the globe exchange gifts, send cards and spend the day with their loved ones. Although the focus is on romantic partnerships, this day can also be used to express your love to family and friends. Whether you celebrate it or not, you can’t deny that love is definitely in the air during this month. But why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day? Where did this tradition come from?
Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery, but we do know that it’s in celebration of St. Valentines. Unfortunately, there’s been at least 3 different St. Valentine or Valentinus.
One of the legends say that Valentine was a priest during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made for better soldiers, so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine didn’t agree with this, and defied the Emperor by performing marriages for young lovers in secret. When Claudius discovered this, he sentenced Valentine to death.
Another story see’s a Valentine imprisoned in a Roman prison, where people were often beaten and tortured. The legend goes that this man had recently fallen in love with a young girl, and during his time in prison and just before his death, he sent her a letter confession his love. He signed it ‘From your Valentine.’
Although we will never know which one of these stories are true (if any) they all have similar themes – that St Valentine’s was a sympathetic, heroic and most importantly, romantic figure.
Whilst some believe that the 14th February marks the death of St Valentine’s, others claim that the Christian Church chose this date in an effort to ‘Christianise’ the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.
Lupercalia is celebrated at the ides of February (15th February) and was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. The festival consisted of Luperci priests sacrificing a goat for fertility and a dog for purification, and then taking the sacrificial blood and covering both women and crop fields with it. The blood was believed to make the recipient more fertile in the coming year. According to legend, all the young women would then place their names in a big urn. The bachelors would then choose a name out of the urn and become paired with their chosen woman for the year. These matches often ended in marriage! This festival was eventually outlawed with the rise of Christianity.
Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, you can’t ignore it’s popularity. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent out each year. This is the second largest card sending holiday, just falling short of Christmas!