Valentine’s Day – The History
by Emma Lewis on Feb 09, 2022
Valentine's Day has always been all about love, happiness and appreciating that special person near us. Many nations have their own days to celebrate love, for example in Wales we celebrate the Welsh Day of love on or the Santes Dwynwen on January 25th. Yet Valentine’s Day has become an international sensation over the years, and many people celebrate it alongside their National Day of Love too. But how did the notion of Valentine’s Day start?
Learning more about Saint Valentine
Valentine’s Day is the day we celebrate Saint Valentine, but what a lot of people don’t know is that there were many different martyrs with this name. The ones that we honor during Valentine’s Day are Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome. The latter was a priest from Rome that was martyred in 269, and then he was added to the calendar of saints later on. His remains were buried on Via Flaminia, and his relics were kept in the San Valentino Catacombs and Church, which still remained a major pilgrim site during the middle ages. Nowadays his relics can be found in a variety of locations all over Rome, some are even in Dublin.
Valentine of Terni on the other hand was the Interamna bishop and he was martyred while Aurelian was persecuted. He was also buried in Via Flaminia, but his relics were always kept at the Basilica Saint Valentine in Terni. Both Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome were executed during February 14, even if the years differed.
But why is Valentine’s Day connected with love? It seems that both of them, especially Valentine of Terni was officiating weddings for the Roman soldiers, even if the emperor was not ok with something like this. It was such a thing that made him a proponent for love, peace and happiness.
Additionally, it seems that Valentine wrote a greeting to a girl that he tutored and with whom he fell in love, after being imprisoned. He wrote a letter that was signed “From your Valentine”, and this phrase is still widely used today as well. Some say that the catholic church actually created Valentine’s Day as a way to honor these two men that are seen as martyrs, since they gave their life to support love and happiness.
Of course, there are also rumors that Valentine’s Day was created by Pope Gelasius I as something to replace the Lupercalia festival, which was a celebration of fertility dedicated to Romulus, Remus and Faunas, the god of agriculture. During that time, there was a feast of debauchery, since there was a ritual where some Roman priests were running naked on the streets, slapping women with animal hides that were soaked in blood. This practice was said to promote fertility, and thus it was widely accepted.
After this, there was another tradition where they had women’s names added in a jar, and men were selecting any of those names at random. That would help decide who would they be with for the next year or even until the end of time.
How did Valentine’s Day become the popular event we know today?
Many people agree that the current Valentine’s Day format is influenced by Chaucer. Chaucer lived during the Middle Ages, a time of courtly love. There were many people showcasing romantic statements, paintings, songs and poems celebrating love and partnership. Chaucer was one of the first people that used the term Valentine as something very romantic in his work. And when the 15th century ended, this word was already used to describe a lover. Shakespeare also made Valentine popular through his writing with mentions of the day in both Hamlet and A Midsummer’s Night dream. Later on, during the 18th century, there was a book named “The Young Man Valentine’s Writer” which was also about love and its importance in our live.
The first Valentine Cards were sent in the 18th Centruy and were handmade affairs with lovers decorating paper with romantic symbols like flowers and love knits. During the 19th century, the printing press allowed for the mass production of Valentine’s Day cards. The more expensive the card the more elaborate the design so you lover would always know how much you had spent. In 1913 Hallmark cards produced its first Valentine’s Day card marking a key development in the commercialisation of the event. It is now a commercial event, as well as a massive celebration of partnership and love.
Of course, even Valentine’s Day wasn’t immune to any tragedies. Al Capone’s gang killed 7 men during the prohibition in Chicago. This is known as the Valentine’s Day massacre and it’s a very important part of the prohibition times and history.
What role does Cupid play in Valentine’s Day?
When we talk about Valentine’s Day, Cupid is usually associated with it. But how did it happen? As we already know now, Valentine’s Day is connected to Roman priests. Well, Cupid was the son of Venus in the Roman Mythology, so it’s heavily connected to what people were believing in at those times. Valentine’s Day is known for shooting arrows at humans and gods, which make it easy to fall in love with another person.
It's very hard to know when was Cupid added to Valentine’s Day, but it’s simple to see why that happen. Cupid is clearly one of the main proponents of love, and having him as a part of this day that’s all about love was a given. It’s said that Cupid was associated with Valentine and love ever since the Roman Empire times, but that’s hard to pinpoint accurately.
Valentine’s Day has been an ancient ritual day, a religious event, but also a commercial holiday over the years. It continues to shine and stand out as a very distinctive, unique day where people get to be near those they love, enjoy their time and stay happy. Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating the love between two persons, and it has no limits. Sure, there are various traditions related to it, like gifting chocolates, roses, a romantic dinner and many others. But it all comes down to a simple, unique way for people that love each other to celebrate their partnership and connection that brought them together, as well as those amazing moments they spent with each other!