Valentine’s Day actually started out as a pagan ritual and later turned into a Christian holiday. Later down the line it actually became romantic. We don’t usually relate romance to Saints. There is controversy and lots of legends on the holiday.
Then it was taken off the religious calendars and put on the local and national calendars and became the commercial holiday that we know today. I’m going to share some of the history or legends that I found.
The Greco-Roman February holidays alleged to be devoted to fertility and love to St Valentine’s Day. In the ancient Athenian calendar the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera. When I read this it reminded me of Mrs. Bratton’s Greek Mythology class in high school.
The Ancient Rome, Lupercalia, observed Feb. 13-15, as an archaic rite connected to fertility. Lupercalia was a local festival in Rome.
The more general Festival of Juno Februa, meaning “Juno the purifier” or “the chaste Juno” was celebrated on Feb. 13-14. Pope Gelasius (492-496) abolished Lupercalia.
Valentine’s Day was a church sanctioned holiday, as Pope Gelasius deemed Feb. 14 Valentine’s Day near 498 A.D. The exact origin of the holiday is unclear. The history is documented quite well but there was more than one saint that people argue it was named after. The Catholic Church acknowledges three separate saints named Valentine or Valentinus.
In one legend Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself. While in prison it is believed he fell in love with a young girl, possibly the jailer’s daughter. Before his death it is said that he signed a letter “From your Valentine”, an expression we use today.
Another version says St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius attempted to convert Valentine to Roman paganism to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead.
Valentine was executed. But before they could put him to death he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of the jailer.
Others say Valentine was a priest who refused the Roman law ordering young men to remain single. The Roman Emperor Claudius II wanted to grow his army and believed married men did not make good soldiers. The priest secretly performed marriage ceremonies for the young men. Claudius had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail, and put to death.
The Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on Feb. 14 was removed from the general Roman calendar and relegated to a local or national calendar in 1969.
The holiday gained great popularity through the 17th and 18th centuries. However it has seen tremendous popularity in more recent times, especially with faster communication available now.
Valentine’s Day cards began being mass produced in the 1840’s.
Today commercialism is the biggest aspect of Valentine’s Day. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on candies, chocolates, flowers, dinners, jewelry and other gifts to commemorate the day. Only Christmas and Halloween come close in the way modern commercialism has transformed the day.
I personally prefer the homemade valentine card. Some of my favorite valentines are from my youngest sister Hali. I was a senior when she was born and I still have some very special ones she made when she was in grade school.
Valentine’s Day is very special for those who have someone to share the day with. If you have a friend that doesn’t have a significant other, try to remember them also. It is a good day to do something nice for everyone.
Until next week…