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The History of Valentine's Day

Who Started this Tradition?

April 25, 2021 6:37 PM
Valentine's Day has been cherished by many romantic couples for centuries (Edgar Chaparro/Unsplash)
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Note: This story was originally produced over a month ago. Information, dates, predictions, and other details may be outdated.

Valentine’s Day is on February 14, every single year. It is a holiday where people celebrate love between the people they care about most. We celebrate it with candy, flowers, notes, and gifts. This love can be between anybody, platonic or romantic. It is a very well-known holiday that is celebrated by almost everyone around the world. But where did this tradition come from? Who started it, and why do we follow it still to this day?

Valentine's Day is a reminder of the wonders of romance (Jonathan Borba/Unsplash)

Valentine's Day has deep roots in several traditions from Christianity and Ancient Rome. Although many aspects of the holiday are shrouded in mystery, one thing that we definitively know is that there was a Saint Valentine, or Saint Valentinus. The Catholic Church sees three different people named Saint Valentine. One such story states that Valentine was a priest who lived in Rome during the third century. Emperor Claudius the Second had outlawed marriage, as he believed that men who are single fought better than those who were married. Valentine did not agree with this injustice and, thus, continued to help young lovers marry each other in secret. He would continue to do this in secrecy for a long while until the emperor eventually found out what Valentine was doing. The emperor disliked Valentine specifically because he had attempted to convert him to Christianity. He ordered him to be stopped and killed. This is just one, out of the many legends regarding Saint Valentine.

Many historians believe in another tale about him. They say Saint Valentine was a bishop who lived in the city of Terni, but was also slayed by Emperor Claudius the Second. Many historians believe that February 14 is Valentine’s Day because it is the day in which Saint Valentine passed away or was buried in 270 A.D.  

Another legend says that it was not one person who started the tradition, but rather a whole civilization of Romans. In Rome, a festival called the Festival of Lupercalia would be held from February 13 to the 15. During this time, they would hit on women...by hitting them. They believed that this would help them become fertile. Throughout the festival, men would pull tickets and then be given a romantic partner for the remainder of the festival, and, if they so wished, they would be coupled for even longer. The story also states that two men were executed by King Claudius II on the February 14 on two separate years. Both men were coincidently named Saint Valentine, and thus the Catholic Church named the festival after them to honor the two.

A fourth story is that around this time, Pope Gelasius wanted to erase the Festival of Lupercalia by creating the holiday Valentine’s Day. He disliked the holiday as he found it too brutal and unnecessary.

Another figure of Valentine’s Day, Cupid, the winged baby, is also very important to the holiday, but was not a part of its inception. It would not be until much later that the baby would be added to the mythos. While there is no concrete evidence, or even hints, as to when the Cupid became part of the day, it is very clear why. The Cupid in legends is the child of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. It is believed that when he shoots two people with his arrows, they would instantly fall in love with each other.

As time went on, the holiday became much more widespread and celebrated all around the world. It began to appear in the works of William Shakespeare, as he wrote about it in many of his writings, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet. It also began to gain traction all throughout Europe and Britain. As it became more relevant around the world, the tradition of making paper cards became a staple of the holiday. Eventually, the holiday found its way into the New World around the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. This meant that now Valentine's Day cards were now being mass produced within factories all around the United States. The holiday is now a well-known celebration and is known across the world. Valentine’s Day is a very special day that will hopefully never be forgotten and cherished by all.

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