The History of Valentines Day

Gillian Ward, Reporter

Valentines Day, the day we celebrate love. We share candy, sweets, cards, flowers, giant teddy bears and other gifts with loved ones. Most people celebrate Valentines Day with their significant other, but many people choose to celebrate with friends or even family instead.

No matter who you spend February 14 with or how, you gotta wonder “Where did this holiday come from?”
The tradition of Valentines day has been around since the middle ages, and most countries around the world celebrate it, but why? It’s a great thing to show love to other people, don’t get me wrong, but why on this day?
Many people will say, “Oh because of Saint Valentine,” but who is he, and what did he have to do with romance?
When you hear the word “saint” you will most times associate it with Christian Catholicism, and in this case Saint Valentine’s day does have a little something to do with Catholicism. However, most people wouldn’t consider Valentine’s day a religious holiday. It’s not really, there aren’t any modern traditions of it that have to do with God, but its roots seem to be in religion.

The Catholic Church celebrates at least 3 Valentine’s Saints. One was a priest who, when marriage was outlawed by Rome’s emperor Claudius II in order to create “better soldiers”, married young lovers secretly. When he was found out, he was put to death. Another Valentine was thought to have rescued Christians from Roman prisons where prisoners were brutally tortured and beaten. Another was apparently the first to send a Valentine; imprisoned before his death, he sent a letter to a young girl he had fallen in love with who spent time in the prison (she was possibly the jailer’s daughter) and signed it “your Valentine”.

The histories and speculations of the Saint(s) Valentine are foggy, and it was so long ago, but there seems to be an understanding. The protagonist was compassionate, heroic, and romantic.

“So Valentine was a romantic kind of guy huh?” Apparently.

But was Valentines day really for St. Valentine? Many believe that Valentines day may have been placed in the middle of February to commemorate his death, but there may be another reason. History displays that Valentines day may have been placed by the Catholic church to distract from or Christianize the Roman/Pagan celebration of Lupercalia. This was a Roman holiday and festival dedicated to Roman Gods. It promoted fertility in both women and agriculture and involved sacrificial ceremonies. One tradition of this holiday was somewhat romantic- women would place their names in a large pot and the men of the area would draw them. For the next year the two would be coupled together, and it often would result in marriage.

The celebration was eventually outlawed by Christianity, but the middle of February could still be a time of romance.

Middle-age France and England also believed that mid-February was the beginning of mating season for birds, another reason for mid-February to be romantic.

Whatever the histories, Valentine’s Day is a great day to show someone you love them, and its figurehead sounds like a real’ romantic kind of guy. In America, Valentine’s cards apparently began circulating in the 1700s. The Greeting Card Association states that around one billion Valentine’s day cards are sent each year.

This makes Valentines day the second biggest holiday for card sending in the year.