Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love when people the world over express their affection with greeting cards, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and flowers (most traditionally red roses). So, how did it originate?
St. Valentine’s Day
The holiday has origins in the ancient Roman festival Lupercalia. The pagan festival celebrated the coming of spring after a long winter and was filled with feasting and even sacrifice. It wasn’t until the 5th century that Pope Gelasius I replaced this festival with St. Valentine’s Day. It has been a day to celebrate romance since the 14th century.
Who was “St. Valentine”?
- “Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day may have taken its name from a priest who was martyred about 270 CE by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus.”
- As legendary folklore goes, the priest wrote a letter with the inscription: ‘From your Valentine’ to his friend (who was also the daughter of the man who imprisoned him). This is most likely why we ask the ones we love to be our valentine or refer to loved ones as our valentine.
- According to other sources, the social custom was named after “St. Valentine of Terni, a bishop.” It is conceivable that these two saints were, indeed, actually the same person.
- Another common myth is that St. Valentine married off couples in secret to save husbands from having to fight in battle.
How to Celebrate
Of course, when Valentine’s Day is concerned, we all immediately think of sparkly red and pink hearts, lace-trimmed greeting cards emblazoned with the words “I Love You” and “Be My Valentine,” and cupids wielding a bow and arrow. What else do we think of? Bouquets of long-stemmed red (and pink) roses, stuffed animals, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, to name a few!
Cupid: Just a Chubby Cherub?
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” –William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595)
- Cupid is associated with the Greek god of love, Eros (son of Aphrodite).
- In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus: “And by and by she called her winged son Cupid.”- Apuleius
- The Latin word for Desire is “Cupido.”
“She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew, And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forest grew.” –Edmund Spenser, “The Faerie Queen” (1590)
- We all know that we surprise the ones we love with romantic Valentine’s Day greetings but did you know that a “Vinegar Valentine” was a popular token to send to someone who was disliked? This was a common practice during the Victorian era.
- Don’t forget to sign your loving Valentine’s Day cards with X’s and O’s or the acronym SWAK (Sealed With A Kiss).
For more information on Valentine’s Day, its origins, and facts mentioned in this blog, consult the websites below:
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