A history of Valentine’s Day

3D Cupid wih an arch and arrow - isolated over white

Origin of Valentine’s Day

The history of Valentine’s Day is somewhat vague and it is filled with fanciful legends. But the origin of the said day started in ancient Rome where they celebrate the festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration annually on February 15. Pope Gelasious I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, wherein he declared February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentines Galore
Which St. Valentine is the question that seemed to still be the question today because it was not stated who really is the one being honored. In a Catholic Encyclopedia, there were three early Christian saints by that name. One was a priest in Rome, another one was a bishop in Terni and third one who doesn’t have much details on him but was state that he died in Africa. All of these Valentines habe been martyred onf Feb. 14.

Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine of the holiday was a priest who attracted the disapproval of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. At this point, this is where the facts end and the myths begin. As said by one legend, Claudius II had hindered the marriage for young men, claiming that those bachelors are more fit to be soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies but was then arrested by the Romans and put to death. Another legend that Valentine, being imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Prior to Valentine’s execution, he sent a letter to the daughter of the jailer and ending it wih the words “From your Valentine” But the most plausible story around this myth not around passionate love or christian love but because he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion.
In the year 1969, the Catholic Church changed its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable. St. Valentine was one of those casualties.

Chaucer’s Love Birds

It was not until the 14th century that this Christian feast day became strongly associated with love. According to UCLA medieva shoclar Henry Ansgar Kelly, who is also the author of Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine, it was him who associated St. Valentine’s Day with romance or love. Come 1381, Chaucer then produced a poem in honor of the engagement between England’s Richard II and Anne of Bohemia.

Tradition of Valentine’s Cards.
From this holiday’s rich history, it has evolved or changed from time to time. By the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging handmade cards on Valentine’s day had become a tradition in England. People have been creative when it comes to their cards, it was made out of ribbons, lace and hearts. The tradition of Valentine’s cards did not become popular in the United States but in 1850, Ester A. Howland, a graduate of Mount Holyoke began mass producing them. In today’s world, the holiday is now a commercial success.

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