Where Does Valentine’s Day Come From, You Ask?
Feb. 14, a day full of crushin’, lustin’ and lovin.’ For this particular holiday, loved ones all around the world exchange candy, flowers and gifts and may even get some action all in the name of St. Valentine. But, who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from? Many people may not have a clue what they are even celebrating.
If you didn’t already know, we celebrate Valentine’s Day because until 1969, it was one of the many Saint’s Days observed by the Catholic Church. It was dedicated to the patron saint of romantic causes, St. Valentine.
Although it was removed from the Church’s calendar in 1969, the religious meaning coupled with Valentine’s Day’s roots in Roman paganism have allowed it to continue as a holiday for everyone. Early Christians saw Valentine’s Day as a way to honor the three St. Valentines, and the Catholic Church recognizes all who were martyred on Feb. 14.
The St. Valentine that this holiday is named for was, most likely, a priest in the third century C.E. who performed secret marriages when the Roman Emperor Claudius II thought single soldiers were more likely to enlist in the army.
That St. Valentine was imprisoned and executed on Feb. 4, 270 C.E. It was believed that St. Valentine was responsible for giving the jailer’s blind daughter back her eyesight. Before Valentine’s execution, he sent her a note stating, “From your Valentine” – the phrase that is still widely used on Valentine’s Day today.
It wasn’t until 1537 C.E. that St. Valentine’s day was declared an official holiday. England’s King Henry VIII, known for his many wives and execution of several of them, declared Feb. 14 a holiday.
It was another century and a half before cards became non-religious to reflect the change in the holiday.
Officially, Feb. 14 was declared in the name of St. Valentine by Pope Gelasius. It remained a holiday of the Catholic Church until 1969, when Pope Paul VI removed it from the calendar.
On Feb. 14, the ancient Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia in honor of Juno, the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. At a feast held the next day, the women would write love letters and stick them in a large urn. The men would pick a letter from the urn, and for the next year, pursue the woman who wrote the chosen letter. This custom lasted until the 1700s, when people decided their beloveds should be chosen by sight, not luck.
Now, when you celebrate Valentine’s Day this Thursday, think of how this holiday came about because it’s not just all about candy, flowers and sex; it actually has an interesting story behind it all. Also, make sure to give some love to whoever holds special meaning in your life, and show them you care – however that may be.
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