The Origins of Valentine’s Day
By Simran C.
Valentine’s Day, on February 14th, is a global holiday celebrating romance and love. However, its origins are the complete opposite of romantic. The holiday’s roots reach back to ancient Rome. Romans celebrated a festival, known as Lupercalia, from February 13th to the 15th. Lupercalia was a day that celebrated purification and escape from evil spirits. It included bizarre rituals such as sacrificing goats and dogs. Even more strange was the feast that followed. The skins of the animals were cut and used by men to throw at women. If a woman was hit with a skin, she was considered fertile. To the modern world, it appears to be a quite odd celebration.
Later, the Church decided to “Christianize” the celebration of Lupercalia. That meant taking away the unusual rituals and feasts. The Church chose to use it as a day to provide homage to Saint Valentine. Who was Saint Valentine? Well, his story commences with Emperor Claudius II. He persecuted the church and banned marriages for young Roman males. He thought marriages were distractions. Thus, he believed young men could become fiercer soldiers if they stayed away from them. Still, Valentine continued to quietly perform and support marriage ceremonies. He even supposedly had miraculous powers and the ability to heal people. Who would not want to be healed and then married? Unfortunately, Valentine was caught, tortured, and sentenced to death for disobeying Emperor Claudius II.
The story claims that before Valentine was sentenced, there was a “jailer” named Asterius with a blind daughter. Asterius yearned for Valentine to restore her vision. Whether or not the blind girl’s vision was fully brought back, she and Valentine bonded as friends. Before Valentine’s sentence, it was believed that he wrote a note to the blind girl and signed it “from your Valentine.” After Valentine’s death, he became known as a saint in the Church. Pope Gelasius was the one who announced February 14th to be the day of honoring Valentine and his courageous heart. Eventually, the day transformed into a commemoration of love and romance.
The tradition of hand-written Valentine’s Day greetings first began in the fifteenth century. By the seventeenth century, Valentine’s Day cards and letters were commonly traded in Great Britain. Then, the fuss over the holiday reached the United States. Valentine’s Day cards were created in the eighteen-forties. Today, twenty billion dollars are spent by Americans on this holiday. A survey claims that six million couples are most likely to be engaged on Valentine’s Day. It is quite obvious how popular Valentine’s Day has become! Who knew its origins could be so dark and mysterious?