The Debated Origins of Valentine’s Day

photo by Kayla Childress

There are many theories about how and why Valentine’s Day became a holiday. Many people today believe that Valentine’s Day was created by greeting card companies. However, Valentine’s Day was a holiday long before greeting card companies even existed. In fact, the first “Valentine’s” day was celebrated in 496, but before this, it was originally called Lupercalia.

Lupercalia was a festival that lasted from Feb. 13-15. We tend to correlate Valentine’s Day with love. However, this was a festival celebrating the start of spring. The idea of the celebration of love came from a part of the celebration where boys would draw girls’ names out of a box. They would date during the festival and sometimes even get married.

Now, going back to the year A.D. 269, this is where the word “Valentine” originates and came from the name St. Valentine. However, “The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred [persecuted]” (History of Valentine’s Day, History.com Editors). There are three different legends of St. Valentine. The first of those being that Valentine was a priest in Rome under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. The emperor learned that men fought better when they did not have a wife and kids. So, in order to create a stronger army, he outlawed marriage for young men. St. Valentine did not agree with this law and he defied it by secretly marrying people. When Claudius II found out, Valentine was immediately persecuted on what was Feb. 14.

This next Valentine does not correlate with love as much as the others. Saint Valentine from Terni, was also persecuted by Emperor Claudius II outside of Rome. He too was a part of the church. Not much is known as to why he was persecuted, but he was, along with the other two, the perfect representations of the meaning of “Valentinus”.

The third Valentine’s story is one that is told in many different ways. However, to follow the theme of love, let’s talk about the story told from the point of romance. Valentine was sent to jail for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. It was believed that Valentine was in love with a woman, who could have possibly been the jailer’s daughter. While in jail, it was suspected that Valentine wrote his lady a love letter and signed it “From your Valentine,” which is how many end their Valentine love letters today.

Finally, the part when Lupercalia became Valentine’s Day. Again, facts about this event are not solid, and there are many different theories. One is that Christiaans wanted to cover up the pagan Roman festival Lupercalia due to the fact that many events performed in the festival were gross and unholy. Others believed that the church wanted to christianize this festival, so they chose to make this day a celebration of the deaths of St. Valentine.

photo by Camryn Sulser

Gradually, this day became more and more about love and the word Valentine was used as a way to express one’s love to another. This circles us back to greeting cards and gifts. As this holiday became more widely accepted, people began to give gifts and write letters as a sign of love. Industrialization took advantage of this and began mass producing cards, candies, and other gifts, in order to gain a profit off of this holiday.

by Evelyn Peterson, Editor-in-Chief

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