Photo Source: https://www.readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/tag/st-valentine/
By Patrick O’Neill, Staff Writer
Like many holidays, Valentine’s Day has had a long and fabled history marked with occasional bloodshed, commercialism, and a little bit of Shakespeare. But what is the holiday really about? Why is the history of this February Lovefest so muddled? Where did Valentine’s day originate? Well, I’ll tell you.
It all began, as many things do, in Roman times. But the story is still a bit muddled as there are multiple legends of a now saint called Valentine or Valentinus. In each story Valentine is martyred, but he still remains a popular heroic and romantic figure in the Christian community. In one legend, according to The History Channel, Valentine was reportedly an early priest in Rome during the 3rd century. The Emperor Claudius II decreed marriage illegal for young men on the basis that single men were more equipped as soldiers than those with wives and children. Valentine believed this was wrong and defied the Emperor, continuing to marry young couples despite the decree. And so, he was executed for his illegal activity.
There are other legends of St. Valentine and his illegal activities, but the important fact became that he was a heroic and romantic figure—he also always gets himself killed by a Roman emperor, so what’s new?
But, the history of our pink and red heart-shaped holiday doesn’t end there.
You see from about February 13 to 15 the Roman festival of Lupercalia was once celebrated.
Lupercalia, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica is a fertility festival wherein an order of priests known as the Luperci performed fertility rituals associated with the god, Faunus and the legendary she-wolf who nursed the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. The name Lupercalia probably stems from the Latin, lupus meaning wolf.
NPR claims that eventually by the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I combined St. Valentine’s Day and Lupercalia in order to erase the pagan traditions of Lupercalia.
Gradually, the holiday would gain popularity as Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized it in their writings. The holiday gradually became a celebration of love between friends and romantic partners. Soon enough, it became customary to offer hand-made paper cards to loved ones and eventually Hallmark came stomping into the picture.
Hallmark began mass-producing Valentine’s Day cards by 1913, making the holiday a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Fun Facts About Valentine’s Day:
1. In the early 1700s Americans began exchanging hand-made Valentine’s Day cards (The History Channel)
2. The oldest known Valentine was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans (The History Channel)
3. Valentine’s Day spending is expected to top $20 billion (National Retail Federation)
4. On Valentine’s Day in 1929 in Chicago with the murder of seven men in the North Side Gang during an event known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (The History Channel)