On February 14th in the United Sates and many different places around the globe, lots of different things, like candies, flowers, presents, are exchanged between the loved ones. And all of this happens in the name of Saint Valentine. But this question, for which not many have the answer, is that who is tis mysterious saint? What era did he live in? So let’s try to dig into this centuries old tradition. Let’s try to find out what exactly sparks this affection at this time of the year in the name of a saint.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The history of this mysterious saint isn’t very apparent, but covered in a shroud. We know that the month of February is a romantic one, also that the day has roots in both the ancient Christian and Roman tradition. Let’s throw some light now on the history of St. Valentine and how is he associated with this annual event which is celebrated widely across the world by a large number of people.
Around 150 million cards, in the whole world, are exchanged annually. This also make Valentine’s Day the second most popular holiday when it comes to sending cards.
Two different saints, Valentine and Valentinus, are recognised by the Catholic Church, and both of these saints were martyred. There is a legend which says that Valentine was a saint who lived and served in the 3rd century in the ancient country of Rome; now that’s a long, long time ago. Now the Emperor of Rome, Claudius II had a belief that married men make poor warriors and unmarried men are better at arms, consequently, he banned marriage of young men. Valentine thought that this act wasn’t just and he continued perform the marriages of young men and women in secret. This was found out and Claudius ordered him to be executed.
There is another legend that says that Valentine was executed after he was caught helping the Christians to escape the prisons in Rome, which were extremely torturous in nature, and not so dear in the eyes of Valentine. Another story says that Valentine sent the first Valentine greeting to a young girl while in the prison, possibly the jailor’s daughter who visited him in his confinement. And before he died, it is said that he wrote this letter which was signed as “From your valentine.” This expression is still used today. The stories are unclear, and nobody knows the truth. However, Valentine in all of these stories and myths is depicted as a kind man with a heroic and loving personality. This reputation helped Valentine become one of the most popular saints in Franc and England.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
THE PAGAN ORIGIN OF VALENTINE’S DAY
The majority believes that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in mid-February, commemorating the death of Valentine, which probably happened in A.D. 270, while there are others who believe that the Church decide to event this day in the middle of February to Christianise Luperci, which was a pagan celebration. It was a fertility festival which was dedicate to the Roman God of agriculture, Faunus, and Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.
In the festival of Luperci, the Roman priests who were the members of this order would come together at a sacred cave, where it is believed that the founders of Rome cared for Lupda, or a she-wolf. Sacrifice of a goat and a dog would take place for fertility and purification, respectively. After that, the goat’s hide would be stripped into strips, dipped in the blood of sacrifice, and be taken to the strips. These strips would then be slapped gently on crop fields and women. The women, did not avoid this ritual and welcomed it with the thought that this would make them even more fertile in the coming year. The legend also states that the young women would place their names in an urn, which would be picked up by men; a match would be made resulting in marriage.
ROMANCE ON THE DAY
The festival of Lupercalia survived the early phase of Christianity but was soon considered un-Christian. February 14th was declared as Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius in the end of the 5th century. However, it was only associated with live in the middle ages when it was largely believed in France and England that February 14 began the mating season of birds, and thus the idea of romance stuck in Valentine’s day.
Back in the Middle Ages, written greetings were popular. In the 17th century, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated. And when the print technology developed in the 1900s, hand-written cards gained popularity. The ready-made cards were and easy way to express love and affection.
Nowadays, Valentine’s Day is celebrated widely. It has spread with the spread of Internet as more people are knowing about it. Greetings have become even more popular as printing technology is everywhere. It has become a time for lovers to spend a day together, and for those who are still wooing, it is seen as an opportunity for proposal. However, the day is not just celebrated by couples, but also by people who look upon this day as an opportunity to share gifts, presents, and joy with their loved ones.