The Origins of Valentine’s Day

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By Elizabeth Hoo, Staff Writer

Valentine’s Day is known to some as the holiday of romance, and to others as simply the “Hallmark” holiday. But despite conflicting views and opinions of Valentine’s Day, there is no denying that the holiday has a very interesting background, one of both Pagan and Christian history.

Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated on Feb. 15 and was known as the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which celebrated fertility. The holiday honored Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as the Roman founders, Romulus and Remus.  In 496, Pope Gelasius I declared that this Pagan holiday would be celebrated on Feb. 14 in honor of St. Valentine. The Church  recognizes three saints by the name of Valentine, all who were supposedly martyred on Feb. 14. Many have deduced that St. Valentine  was a priest around 270 AD during the rule of Emperor Claudius II. This story accounts for one explanation of the history of Valentine’s Day, but many more serve to explain the origin of the holiday.

Some believe that Claudius II made it illegal for young men to get married because single men were better soldiers. Even though this was decreed by the Emperor, Valentine continued to perform marriage ceremonies secretly, before being caught and put to death. Another story tells of Valentine falling in love while in jail, most likely with the jail guard’s daughter. Before dying, Valentine sent out a letter to his love, closing with the line “From your Valentine.” Some believe that St. Valentine was killed because he would not renounce his religion.

We will never know which story is true, but that hasn’t stopped Valentine’s Day from becoming a very popular holiday among couples. In more recent history, Valentine’s Day traditions include candy, hearts, and cards. In the United States, the first Valentine’s Day cards were exchanged in the 1700s, and the tradition quickly gained momentum.  In the 1840s, manufacturers began to mass-produce Valentine’s Day cards. Presently, around one billion cards are sent annually on Valentine’s Day, making it the second most popular card-sending holiday, following only Christmas. Whatever you decide to do for Valentine’s Day, remember there is much more to this holiday than just roses and kisses.

 

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