What is it about the 14th February, the day which sends lovers, partners and potential suitors into a frenzy to proclaim their love for each other? Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Valentine’s Day at all?
Who was Saint Valentine?
The Catholic Church recognises three different saints named Valentine, or ‘Valentinus’. However the myth surrounding who was the first Valentine centres around two main contenders.
The first legend contends that during 3AD in Rome, the then Emperor Claudius II outlawed the marriage of soldiers, as he believed that bachelors made better soldiers. A priest named Valentine, who saw the injustice of this decree, began to secretly marry these single soldiers and their lovers. He was eventually caught and put to death!
A second legend contends a man named Valentine who helped Christians escape from Roman prisons, many of whom were tortured or harshly treated. Valentine was eventually imprisoned himself for aiding these prisoners, and this is when he fell in love with the jailor’s daughter, to whom he would send love letters. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote his lover a letter signed ‘from your Valentine’, an expression still used today.
Not a lot is known about the third Valentine, except that he met his end in Africa.
Rather astonishingly, all three Valentines were said to have been martyred on February 14!
Origins of Valentine’s Day
While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial, others claim that the Christian Church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianise” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the middle of February, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture, as well as to the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
Valentine’s Day and gift-gifting
Over the centuries, the holiday of Valentine’s Day evolved, and by the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging handmade cards on Valentine's Day had become common in many parts of the world.
Today, of course, the holiday has become a booming commercial success. It is commonplace for friends and lovers of all over the world to exchange small tokens of affection.
So spread the love this Valentine’s Day and give your Valentine a gift from the heart!