Valentine’s Day happens each February 14. Across the United States and in different places world wide, sweet, flowers and items are exchanged between family members, all within the identify of St. Valentine. But who is that this mysterious saint and the place did these traditions come from? Find out in regards to the historical past of Valentine’s Day, from the traditional Roman ritual of Lupercalia that welcomed spring to the card-giving customs of Victorian England.

The Legend of St. Valentine

The historical past of Valentine’s Day—and the story of its patron saint—is shrouded in thriller. We do know that February has lengthy been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we all know it immediately, comprises vestiges of each Christian and historic Roman custom. But who was Saint Valentine, and the way did he grow to be related to this historic ceremony?

The Catholic Church acknowledges at the least three completely different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom have been martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served in the course of the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II determined that single males made higher troopers than these with wives and households, he outlawed marriage for younger males. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to carry out marriages for younger lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions have been found, Claudius ordered that he be put to dying. Still others insist that it was Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop, who was the true namesake of the vacation. He, too, was beheaded by Claudius II outdoors Rome.

Other tales counsel that Valentine could have been killed for trying to assist Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, the place they have been usually crushed and tortured. According to at least one legend, an imprisoned Valentine truly despatched the primary “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a younger lady—presumably his jailor’s daughter—who visited him throughout his confinement. Before his dying, it’s alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that’s nonetheless in use immediately. Although the reality behind the Valentine legends is murky, the tales all emphasize his enchantment as a sympathetic, heroic and—most significantly—romantic determine. By the Middle Ages, maybe due to this repute, Valentine would grow to be some of the well-liked saints in England and France.

Origins of Valentine’s Day: A Pagan Festival in February

While some imagine that Valentine’s Day is well known in the course of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s dying or burial—which in all probability occurred round A.D. 270—others declare that the Christian church could have determined to position St. Valentine’s feast day in the course of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated on the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility competition devoted to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, in addition to to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To start the competition, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman monks, would collect at a sacred cave the place the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, have been believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The monks would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a canine, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s conceal into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping each girls and crop fields with the goat conceal. Far from being fearful, Roman girls welcomed the contact of the hides as a result of it was believed to make them extra fertile within the coming 12 months. Later within the day, based on legend, all of the younger girls within the metropolis would place their names in a giant urn. The metropolis’s bachelors would every select a reputation and grow to be paired for the 12 months along with his chosen girl. These matches usually led to marriage.

Valentine’s Day: A Day of Romance

Lupercalia survived the preliminary rise of Christianity however was outlawed—because it was deemed “un-Christian”—on the finish of the fifth century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not till a lot later, nonetheless, that the day turned definitively related to love. During the Middle Ages, it was generally believed in France and England that February 14 was the start of birds’ mating season, which added to the concept the center of Valentine’s Day ought to be a day for love. The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the primary to file St. Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration in his 1375 poem “Parliament of Foules,” writing, ““For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

Valentine greetings have been well-liked way back to the Middle Ages, although written Valentine’s didn’t start to look till after 1400. The oldest recognized valentine nonetheless in existence immediately was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his spouse whereas he was imprisoned within the Tower of London following his seize on the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now a part of the manuscript assortment of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it’s believed that King Henry V employed a author named John Lydgate to compose a valentine notice to Catherine of Valois.

Who Is Cupid?

Cupid is commonly portrayed on Valentine’s Day playing cards as a unadorned cherub launching arrows of affection at unsuspecting lovers. But the Roman God Cupid has his roots in Greek mythology because the Greek god of affection, Eros. Accounts of his beginning differ; some say he’s the son of Nyx and Erebus; others, of Aphrodite and Ares; nonetheless others counsel he’s the son of Iris and Zephyrus and even Aphrodite and Zeus (who would have been each his father and grandfather).

According to the Greek Archaic poets, Eros was a good-looking immortal performed with the feelings of Gods and males, utilizing golden arrows to incite love and leaden ones to sow aversion. It wasn’t till the Hellenistic interval that he started to be portrayed because the mischievous, chubby little one he’d grow to be on Valentine’s Day playing cards.

Typical Valentine’s Day Greetings

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is well known in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day started to be popularly celebrated across the seventeenth century. 

By the center of the 18th, it was frequent for pals and lovers of all social lessons to trade small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed playing cards started to exchange written letters as a result of enhancements in printing know-how. Ready-made playing cards have been a simple method for individuals to specific their feelings in a time when direct expression of 1’s emotions was discouraged. Cheaper postage charges additionally contributed to a rise within the recognition of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Americans in all probability started exchanging hand-made valentines within the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland started promoting the primary mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, often called the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with actual lace, ribbons and colourful footage often called “scrap.” Today, based on the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day playing cards are despatched annually, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending vacation of the 12 months (extra playing cards are despatched at Christmas).