Do you know the history of Valentine’s Day?
Are you thinking about writing a love note to your sweetie on February 14th? Well, you will be in good company since an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, according to American Greetings. But does it reflect the meaning behind Valentine’s Day?
Whether or not you truly understand what compels you to send a card, that statistic makes Valentine’s Day the second most popular card sending holiday, with Christmas being number one at 2.6 billion. Furthermore, about 85% of the Valentine cards are sent by women. Go figure. (Is it because we are more romantic, or just more expressive and considerate?)
The history of St. Valentine
So, how did it all get started? It turns out that Valentine’s Day has historical roots in both Christian and pagan traditions, like so many other holidays we celebrate. Doing a search for the history of Valentine’s Day will lead you to at least 2 early Christian martyrs, St. Valentine of Rome and St. Valentine of Terni.
My research began with every web surfer’s go-to guide, Wikipedia, spiraling outward in all sorts of juicy directions. The official date of Valentine’s Day to be held each February 14 was a declaration of Pope Gelasius. So, yes, the day of love we celebrate every 14th of February started out as a Catholic holiday.
However, no romantic elements are present in the early Medieval biographies of either. According to an article by Jack Oruch, the first recorded association of romantic love with Valentine’s Day is by Geoffrey Chaucer in Parlement of Foules.
Some shocking Valentine Day facts
Some scholars believe that the Catholic Church may have decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the middle of February in an effort to “christianize” the pagan Lupercalia festival. Lupercalia was a fertility festival in honor of the she wolf who suckled the fabled founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
This Valentine’s Day trivia gets even more shocking. An order of Roman priests called Luperci, would sacrifice 2 goats and a dog, then dress boy participants in the skins. The boys would then run around the city, slapping women and crop fields with goatskin strips, which were believed to instill fertility. Far from being fearful, the Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides. According to legend, later the same day, the young women would place their names in an urn to be paired with the lucky bachelor who drew it from the pot.
Celebrating Valentine’s Day the modern way
But despite how you feel about the history of Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to show your lover that you care this February 14th in the modern manner. A hand written love note is much more personal than the standard greeting card, although there are very beautiful cards out there.
Chocolates are a traditional way to show your affection, or better yet, make a romantic dinner for two. Of course, if you really want to show adventure and spirit and the history of Valentine’s Day, you could invest in a goatskin hide, especially if your sweetie is a Lupercalian scholar!
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