The history of Valentines day


With the day of love right around the corner, I once again want to take a look back into the past to discover the origins of valentines day. This is a day that many across the globe celebrate though it is very likely that many of us do not know where this centuries-old tradition began. Although it may be difficult to show those you love how much they mean to you this year, sometimes people appreciate a simple ‘I love you’ from the people they care about. 

Although the original story has been lost in a muddle of twisted tales and continuous adaptations, the celebration appears to have been started in Ancient Rome, although it wasn’t always associated with romantic love. Originally, this pagan holiday was called Lupercalia, between the 13th and the 15th of February. Instead of people giving gifts or showing affection for those that they love, this celebration was about the fertility of women. The festival involved people running around naked spanking women on the bottom if they were hoping to conceive. The celebration was also said to ward off evil spirits. The celebration was also known as dies Februatus, after the instruments of purification called februa. It is also believed that this is where the name for the month of February came from. They would use dead animals as offerings to keep the spirits at bay. The name of the festival likely derives from the Latin word for wolf, ‘lupus’, but it is uncertain as to why this would be.

The purpose of this holiday shifted when the Christians took over its celebrations. They introduced it as St Valentine’s day. There several different martyred St Valentines that are recognised by the catholic church and it has never been made clear which one of these the day is a celebration of. One Valentine was beheaded for secretly wedding people after marriage was declared illegal because Claudius II believed that single boys made better soldiers. Another story suggests that it was St Valentine of Torni was the true namesake for the holiday, though he too was executed by Claudius II. The third story suggests that Valentine was killed for aiding the escape of Christians from Roman captivity. Although it is not clear which Valentine it refers to, one legend says that when captive, Valentine was in love with his jailor’s daughter, and sent her the first valentines card, signed simply, ‘from your valentine’. This is one of the reasons that St Valentine is romanticised and seen as a romantic figure to be celebrated in the modern-day. 

Nowadays, Valentine’s day is a special day for showing those you love, especially romantically, how much you really care. Even if you cannot reach the ones you love or you have yet to find someone special with who to celebrate this holiday, let us all try to appreciate the people we love, here or gone, and how much we care about them. To the special people in my life, now and past, happy valentines day. 


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