February 14, globally known as Valentine’s Day, is a day of spreading love; people often exchange candies, flowers, and other gifts to commemorate the special day. You might have heard different stories about the origin of this love celebration. That’s why we’ve gathered important facts about the origin of Valentine’s Day to help you understand why it’s celebrated. Let’s dive in!
How the name came to signify love
February has been celebrated as a month of romance, but February 14 wasn’t randomly picked as Valentine’s Day. The name is credited to a saint with the same name- but which saint exactly?
The Catholic Church recognized three martyred saints named Valentine or Valentinus. However, the most likely Saint Valentine was the man who defied Claudius II’s marriage ban decree and secretly performed marriages for young lovers.
A pagan festival was Christianized
Some believe that St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the 14th of February to celebrate St. Valentine’s burial, which probably occurred around A.D. 270. However, it’s more likely that the celebration was an effort to change the concept of the pagan festival, Lupercalia.
Dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, Lupercalia was a fertility festival involving Roman priests sacrificing goats and dogs. The festival was celebrated on February 15 until it was outlawed at the end of the 5th century.
A matchmaking ceremony
The Lupercalia festival usually ended in a sort of matchmaking ceremony. The young women in the city would place their names in a large bowl, and the bachelors would each choose a name– and they would become paired for the year.
Interestingly, these matches always ended up in marriage, highlighting the theme of fertility upon which the festival was based. Even after the festival became extinct, the matchmaking theme remains a prominent feature of Valentine’s Day.
The first Valentine’s Day love notes
The early Valentine’s Day celebrations involved exchanging gifts and flowers, and it was not until after 1400 that Valentine’s notes existed. The oldest note was a poem that Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote to his wife while imprisoned.
Henry V also hired a writer, John Lydgate, to compose a Valentine’s note for Catherine of Valois. Since then, sending handwritten Valentine’s notes to loved ones on the special day has become a norm.
Valentine as it is today
Esther A. Howland, known as the mother of Valentine, started selling the first mass-produced Valentine gifts made of real lace, colorful pictures, and ribbons. In the 1900s, advanced technology brought about printed Valentine’s cards.
Although Valentine’s Day remains a romantic holiday, platonic, friendly gestures have been integrated into the culture. However, the bottom line is that Valentine’s Day is for sharing love at different levels.