The Origin of Valentine’s Day

Alayna Winters, Staff Writer

It is now February, and everyone knows that this is the season of love. Valentine’s Day, which takes place every year on February 14th, has been celebrated for centuries, but does anyone actually know where this love-filled holiday originated from?

Valentine’s Day has a long and mysterious history. There are multiple theories to how it became what it is today, yet it can be said that the holiday contains both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. On the Christian side of things, Valentine’s day comes from the remembrance of Saint Valentine. However, there were multiple different Saint Valentines over the course of history, and it is hard to say which one was the reason for the holiday. Even though they were different people, all Valentine legends emphasized him as a heroic, sympathetic, and romantic figure.

The first Valentine legend said that he was a priest who served in Rome when Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men because he thought single men were better soldiers. Valentine continued to perform marriages for lovers in secret, and when his actions were discovered, he was put to death.

The other Valentine legend suggests he may have been killed for helping Christians escape Roman prisons where they were being tortured. When he was captured, he sent the first “valentine” to a girl, who may have been his jailor’s daughter, that visited him while he was imprisoned. Before he was executed, he allegedly wrote a letter signed, “From your Valentine.”

Some people believe that Valentine’s Day is in February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death, but others claim the Christian church decided to place St. Valentine’s feast there in an effort to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was a festival celebrated on February 15th dedicated to Fanus, the Roman god of agriculture, and Rome’s founders Romulus and Remus. The festival began when priests sacrificed a goat for fertility and a dog for purification at the spot where Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf. They would then turn the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the blood, and take them around slapping both women and crop fields with the hides. This was believed to make the women more fertile in the coming year, so they welcomed it. At the end of the day, the women’s names would be placed in an urn and the bachelors would choose a name to become paired for the year. This is where matchmaking came from.

At the end of the 5th Century, the Christian Pope deemed Lupercalia “un-Christian” and declared February 14th St Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day become a day for romance, and written valentines appeared in the 1400s. As time has passed, Valentine’s day has transformed into what we now know, filled with chocolates, roses, and cheesy cards!