The entire world is geared up for the Valentine’s Day celebration, celebrated on February 14th of every year.
Valentine’s Day is widely recognized as a day of romance and love, marked by the exchange of cards, flowers, chocolates, and other tokens of affection, in fact, many have christened it ‘Lovers Day’.
Sadly, many who swim in the euphoria of this celebration know little or nothing about it.
The origins of this holiday, however, are steeped in history, tradition, and various legends, tracing back to ancient Roman times and early Christianity.
One of the earliest associations of Valentine’s Day with romance comes from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia.
Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
The celebration ran from February 13th till the 15th day.
The festivities included a lottery.
For this lottery, young men would draw the names of women from a jar, pairing them for the duration of the festival, or sometimes even longer, leading to marriage.
St. Valentine: The Christian Martyr
The day is named after St. Valentine, but identifying the exact Valentine whom the holiday commemorates is challenging.
The reason is because the history mentions at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
A popular legend suggests that Valentine was a priest.
This particular Valentine is said to have served during the third century in Rome.
The story started when Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families.
This made him ban marriage for young men.
Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered his execution.
This is not all, there is another version of this story.
It suggests that Valentine was killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured.
According to this narrative, Valentine sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl—possibly his jailor’s daughter—who visited him during his confinement.
Before his death, it is alleged he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression still in use today.
How Valentine’s Day was transformed into ‘Lover’s Day’
The day became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.
By the 15th century, it became common for lovers to exchange poems and simple gifts like flowers.
The oldest known valentine still in existence today is a poem.
That poem was written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned.
Charles was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.
Valentine’s Day today
Fast forward to today, the holiday has evolved into the modern Valentine’s Day we celebrate today.
By the 18th century in England, it had become common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.
The 19th century brought a whole new innovation, printed valentine cards began to replace written letters.
This was even easy due to improvements in printing technology.
The practice of sending Valentine’s Day cards grew immensely popular in Britain and the United States.
This led to the commercialization of the holiday in the 20th century.
As of today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world.
While its romantic connotations still stands, the holiday has also become a time to show affection between friends and family members.