What is the history of St Valentines Day
While the history of St Valentines Day and its name are not completely clear, the details that we know to be true only add to our fascination with this mysterious and beloved occasion. For centuries February has been synonymous with love and romance and its central component, St Valentines Day, includes elements of ancient Roman, as well as a Christian tradition. However, this renowned day’s namesake is someone who is virtually unknown to many and mystifying to others.
It is somewhat difficult to depict Saint Valentine or comprehend his entire significance in the history of St Valentines Day because research indicates that the Catholic Church acknowledges no less than three different saints by the name of Valentine or Valentinus, any of which could be credited as playing a part in the history of St Valentine’s Day. Additionally, there are various other notable individuals who have also been linked to the holiday.
According to one legend regarding the history of St Valentines Day, a third-century Roman priest by the name of Valentine was discontent with an unjust decree enacted by Emperor Claudius II. The emperor’s ruling was that wives and families were a distraction to soldiers and therefore marriage should be outlawed for young men. Ignoring this senseless law, Valentine secretly continued to perform marriages for young couples. Unfortunately, Claudius learned of these covert ceremonies and ordered Valentine be put to death for his defiance. If this tale is true, then the history of St Valentine’s Day rests with the dark fate of this well-meaning priest.
Conversely, some argue that the day’s name pays homage to a man who was murdered for his efforts to aid Christians in fleeing from the violent and deplorable conditions of Roman prisons while others contend that the history of St Valentines Day relates to a young prisoner, named Valentine, who sent the first improvised Valentine to his beloved. The story speculates that the young Valentine was involved with the jailor’s daughter and she would visit him regularly at the prison. Before his execution, he wrote one last letter to her and signed with the now-famous expression, “From your Valentine.”
Whatever its origin, St Valentine’s Day has been a part of American culture since the early 1700s, when hand-made Valentines greetings were given as a token of love for someone special. This fashion continued until Esther A. Howland, lovingly referred to as “Mother of the Valentine,” introduced the first commercially available valentines in the 1840s. Adorned with real lace, ribbons and colourful pictures, Howland’s creations were the desire of sweethearts everywhere.
February 14 is St. Valentine’s Day
Contrary to what some believe, St Valentines Day is not only special in the United States; France, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom are also among the countries that take part in the festivities. The date is universal, but the debate surrounding the reason why February 14 is St. Valentine’s Day continues.
Some speculate that St Valentines Day became a mid-February celebration as a Christian alternative to the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival tribute to Rome’s god of agriculture and founders. The festival would include the ritualistic sacrifice of animals followed by the ceremonious anointing of bloody animal hide against the skin of women who hoped to conceive a child, as it was believed that this practice could improve fertility. The same custom was followed in the village’s fields, anticipating similarly fruitful results for the year’s harvest. Concluding the festival, all of the young women would put their names into an urn to be selected by the city’s bachelors, at which time the couple would be paired for a year. Many of the couples chose to marry following this. The festival was deemed “un-Christian” at the end of the 5th century and Pope Gelasius declared St Valentine’s Day be celebrated on February 14.
What it really means
Another popular theory was that citizens of England and France believed that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, thus it should be a day for love and romance. Whether either assumption is true remains uncertain, but what is certain is that whatever the history of St. Valentines Day it is a day when we can remind our friends and lovers how much they mean to us. What a magnificent day!
Main Image courtesy of anitahart’s Photostream
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