A Brief History of Valentine’s Day Stuff
Yummy Colin Wayne
Origins of Valentine’s Day
Valentine‘s Day has its origins in several different legends. The holiday seems to have begun in ancient Roman with the festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration held on February 15. About 496, Pope Gelasius I declared this pagan festival as a Christian feast day to be held on February 14 and called St. Valentine’s Day.
The Real St. Valentine
There appear to be at least three early Christian saints by the name Valentine. One was a priest in Rome, while another was a bishop in Terni. Almost nothing is known of the third, except that he met his end in Africa. All three Valentines were said to have been martyred on Feb. 14.
Most authorities believe that the St. Valentine of the holiday was a Roman priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270 A.D. Several legends explain this disfavor. One is that Valentine performed secret marriages for Roman soldiers who were not permitted to marry. Another legend has it that Valentine was imprisoned by Claudius and fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before being executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed “from your Valentine.” However, the most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is agape love (Christian love). He was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion.
Not until the 14th century was this Christian feast day definitively associated with romantic love. Chaucer first linked St. Valentine’s Day with romance in 1381 by composing a poem in honor of the engagement between England’s Richard II and Anne of Bohemia on February 14. (UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine)
By the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine’s Day had become common in England. The tradition soon spread to the American colonies, but did not become widespread in the United States until the 1850s when Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke graduate and native of Worcester, Mass., began mass-producing cards.
One of the earliest popular symbols of the Valentine’s Day is Cupid, the Roman god of love, who is represented by the image of a young boy with bow and arrow. However, before he was Cupid he was Eros the Greek god of love.
Little Known Factoids
The oldest known Valentine’s poem in existence today was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans during his imprisonment in the Tower of London, following the Battle of Agincourt, The poem was written to his wife (www.history.com).
In 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable. St. Valentine was one of the casualties.
Today the holiday is a booming commercial success with 25% of all cards sent each year being valentines (According to the Greeting Card Association).
150 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year (www.history.com).
40,000 Americans are employed at chocolate companies (www.history.com).
62% of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day (www.history.com).
6 million couples will get engaged on Valentine’s Day (www.history.com)
And leaving you with the delicious Colin Wayne…