Valentine's Day: A Short History
For some reason, Valentine’s Day touches a soft spot for women, or at least most women. We want flowers, candy, things that are red and pink, but very few take the time to learn where Valentine’s Day actually came from. I thought we could all use a little history lesson.
Before we delve into Valentine himself, the origins of St. Valentine’s Day as an actual holiday come from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15th. It is one of the oldest ancient Roman ceremonies and was celebrated for hundreds of years. The Romans dedicated this day to their god, Lupercus, the god of fertility.
The ceremony took place in the rumored birthplace of Remus and Romulus, the founders of the city of Rome, where they were nurtured by the she-wolf. Sacrifices were made from goats and small dogs and offered to Lupercus. The whole ceremony revolves around purification and fertility through purification, paying homage to shepherds in honor of Romulus and Remus, who in their time were leaders of the nomadic tribes before Rome was created. After the Catholic Church was created, this holiday was adopted from the old Pagan holidays and recognized for St. Valentine to help transition Romans to Catholicism.
Next on the agenda, who is Valentine? It’s actually St. Valentine. And there are three Saints named Valentine that are recognized by the Catholic Church, each martyred and each death linked in some way with love and relationships. One story says that Valentine was a priest who lived during the 3rd century A.D. in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decreed that single men made more efficient soldiers than young men with wives and families. As a result, he outlawed marriage for young men. A priest named Valentine thought this was unjust. He defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius
ordered that he be put to death and he was beheaded. Another story claims that Valentine was locked in prison and ran a message system between inmates and their loved ones outside. This could be where the title of Valentines, our little love notes, comes from. The legends can get a little foggy, but it was always held that St. Valentine was a man of romance.
The celebration of Lupercalia was outlawed in the 5th century replaced by the Pope as St. Valentine’s Day. As hundreds of years went by, millions contributed to the growing romance of Valentine’s Day. It became common to exchange small tokens of affection to close friends. Poems were written, secret love notes passed, and then the printing industry exploded making way for millions of little cards to be printed, filled out, and given to whomever you wish. I much prefer the roses and candy to the sacrificial goats, so in this case I’m glad for the evolution of men and women and their addiction to sweets.