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Monday 4th of March 2024

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History of Valentine’s Day: Do you understand the origins of Valentine’s Day?

Posted On : February 7, 2023

Oscar Alochi

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Valentine’s Day falls on February 14 each year. Candy, flowers, and presents are given and received between loved ones all around the United States and in other countries on Valentine’s Day.
But who is this enigmatic saint, and where did these customs originate? Discover the origins and significance of Valentine’s Day, from the spring-welcoming Lupercalia ceremony of the Romans to Victorian England’s card-giving traditions.
What’s the origin of Valentine’s Day? The origins of the festival and the life of its patron saint are obscure. We do know that February has long been regarded as a month of love and that the origins of St. Valentine’s Day can be traced to both Christian and ancient Roman customs.

However, who was Saint Valentine and how did he come to be connected to this traditional ritual?
At least three martyrs with the names Valentine or Valentinus are revered by the Catholic Church. According to one narrative, Valentine was a priest who served in Rome in the third century.
Emperor Claudius II forbade young men from getting married because he believed that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and kids.
Realizing the injustice of the law, Valentine defied Claudius and proceeded to secretly marry young lovers. When Valentine’s deeds were discovered, Claudius gave the order to have him executed.
Others assert that the bishop Saint Valentine of Terni is the actual source of the holiday’s name, Outside of Rome, Claudius II also executed him by beheading.

According to other legends, Valentine may have been murdered for trying to aid Christians in escaping from the oppressive Roman jails where they were frequently beaten and tormented.
One story has it that a Valentine who was imprisoned sent the first “valentine” message himself because he fell in love with a young girl who may have been his jailor’s daughter and visited him while he was incarcerated.
She allegedly received a letter from him before he passed away, signed “From your Valentine,” a phrase that is still in use today.
Despite the ambiguity surrounding the legends surrounding Valentine, they all highlight his attractiveness as a sympathetic, valiant, and most importantly romantic figure.

Valentine would rank among the most well-liked saints in England and France by the Middle Ages, possibly as a result of this reputation.

Origins of Valentine’s Day: A Pagan Festival in February
While some think that Valentine’s Day is observed in the middle of February to mark the anniversary of Valentine’s passing or burial, which is thought to have happened around the year 27 A.D., others assert that the Christian church may have chosen to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan holiday of Lupercalia.
Lupercalia, a fertility festival honoring Romulus and Remus as well as Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, was observed on February 15 the ides of February.

To start the event, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would assemble in a sacred cave where it was said that a she-wolf, or lupa, had taken care of the infants Romulus and Remus, the city’s founders.
The priests would offer a dog for cleansing and a goat for fertility. They would then cut the goat’s skin into strips, bathe it in the blood of the sacrifice, and proceed through the streets, lightly slapping both ladies and agricultural fields. Roman women didn’t fear touching the hides because they thought it would increase their fertility for the upcoming year, but far from it.

Legend has it that all the city’s young women would place their names in a large urn later in the day. Each bachelor in the city would select a name and be partnered for the year with his preferred woman. Most of these encounters resulted in marriage.

Meaning of Valentine’s Day: A Day of Romance and Love
When Pope Gelasius proclaimed February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day at the end of the fifth century, Lupercalia was forbidden despite having survived the early growth of Christianity. But it wasn’t until later that the day was unmistakably linked to love.

The concept that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance in the middle of February was strengthened during the Middle Ages by the widespread belief in France and England that February 14 marked the start of the birds breeding season.
In his poem “Parliament of Foules,” written in 1375, the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to refer to St. Valentine’s Day as a day of love celebration.
He wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to pick his spouse.”
Although written Valentine’s did not first appear until about 1400, Valentine’s greetings have been popular since the Middle Ages.

The oldest recorded Valentine that is still in existence today is a poem that Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote to his wife in 1415 while he was held captive in the Tower of London after being defeated at the Battle of Agincourt.
(The greeting is currently included in the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) It is thought that a few years later, King Henry V commissioned John Lydgate, a writer, to write Catherine of Valois Valentine’s letter.

What Is Cupid?
On Valentine’s Day cards, Cupid is frequently depicted as a naked cherub shooting love arrows at unwary couples. However, the Greek god of love, Eros, is where the Roman god Cupid first appeared.

He was reportedly born to Nyx and Erebus, Aphrodite, Ares, Iris, and Zephyrus, or even Aphrodite and Zeus, according to various accounts of his birth (who would have been both his father and grandfather).

Greek Archaic poets described Eros as a gorgeous immortal who played with people’s emotions. He used golden arrows to stir feelings of love and leaden ones to stir feelings of dislike. He wasn’t depicted as the cheeky, chubby boy he had become on Valentine’s Day cards until the Hellenistic era.

The customary greetings and presents on Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is also observed in Kenya, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia in addition to the United States.
Around the 17th century, Valentine’s Day in Great Britain started to become widely observed.
Friends and lovers of all social groups would frequently exchange tiny mementos of affection or handwritten notes by the middle of the 18th century, and by 1900 printed cards had begun to take the place of written letters as a result of advancements in printing technology. When it was frowned upon to communicate one’s feelings directly, pre-made cards provided a simple means of doing so.

The popularity of mailing Valentine’s Day greetings increased as postage costs decreased.

Early in the 1700s, Americans most likely started sharing handmade valentines. Esther A. Howland started selling the first mass-produced Valentines in America in the 1840s. Howland dubbed the “Mother of the Valentine,” created intricate works of art using actual lace, ribbons, and “scrap,” or vivid images.
Valentine’s Day is now the second-largest card-sending occasion of the year, with the Greeting Card Association estimating that 145 million cards are sent each year (more cards are sent at Christmas).

Content courtesy of History & NFH

 

 

Oscar Alochi

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