The history and traditions of Christmas and Thanksgiving are well known to almost all, but what about the explosion of the red and pink holiday decorations that come after the Christmas trees? Every year, people of all ages across the globe celebrate love on Valentine’s Day with flowers, hearts and chocolate. But how did this holiday come to be as we know it today?
The truth is, no one knows for sure. Its origins is believed to have begun with a Roman festival called Lupercalia. Celebrated from Feb. 13-15, this festival was a celebration of fertility where animal sacrifices were made and men and women would partake in a matchmaking lottery that would most likely result in marriage.
However, the name Valentine’s Day itself comes from the Church. Valentine was a popular name that was shared among a few saints back then and infamously, Emperor Claudius II executed two men with the same name, Valentine, on Feb. 14, years apart. Many legends surround these men, although their relation to how this holiday came about is uncertain. One belief is that one Saint Valentine was a priest who would perform weddings for soldiers who couldn’t marry after Emperor Claudius II deemed unmarried young men were better soldiers and outlawed marriage for them. This led to his execution. Supposedly, this St. Valentine became a patron of love and specifically romantic love for what he did. After the execution of both St. Valentines on Feb. 14, the Catholic Church decided to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day on this day to honor the two martyrs.
Later, Pope Gelasius I combined the celebration of Lupercalia after it was made illegal, and St. Valentine’s Day into one day, Feb. 14, to eliminate the pagan festival.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that Valentine’s Day was associated with romance. Geoffrey Chaucer, a 14-century poet, was credited in part of the creation of modern-day celebrations for Valentine’s Day. His poem, “The Parliament of Foules”, suggests that this day was special to lovers. It was also thought that Feb. 14 was the day that began bird mating season. During this time, Shakespeare was also romanticizing this holiday in his works. Love letters and poetry would turn into Valentine’s Day greetings and soon, the word ‘valentine’ was synonymous with lover. After this, popularity for celebrating this holiday broke out in England and then was brought to the rest of the world.
Valentine’s Day may have started as a matchmaking-fertility festival turned into a religious holiday, but today, it is known as a huge commercial holiday where people shower their loved ones with gifts to celebrate their love. As time will go on, Valentine’s Day may even evolve into something else, but as of now, celebrate however you’d like.
Featured graphic image by Jiselle Santos, Creative Director of The Daily Cougar.