By Francesca Burke
Most of us know Valentine’s Day as a holiday where we eat heart-shaped candies, get boxes of chocolates, and remind the important people in our lives how much we love and appreciate them. But have you ever stopped to think about the history behind this holiday? Valentine’s Day, also known as St.Valentine’s Day, is celebrated on the 14th of February every year. The holiday has Roman roots and was originally celebrated as the festival of Lupercalia, which celebrated the coming of spring. Only at the end of the 5th century was Lupercalia changed to Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius I, and it was never celebrated as a holiday of love until the 14th century.
The holiday was most likely named after a priest named Valentine who was martyred around 270 CE by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. According to legend, the priest signed a letter “from your Valentine” which was sent to his jailer’s daughter. She was said to be cured from blindness by Valentine and had befriended him. Another legend says that St.Valentine defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war. For this reason, Valentine’s Day is associated with love.
In the 1500s, formal messages, or valentines, were used. In the 1700s, commercially printed cards were being used. In the United States, commercial valentines began to be printed in the mid-1800s. The reason why cupid is often depicted on Valentine’s Day cards is because he is the Roman god of love, along with hearts which convey emotion. Birds are also the symbol of this holiday because the avian mating season begins mid-February. Red roses are typically gifts because they convey beauty and love, along with candy.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain, South Korea, Mexico, France, and Argentina. In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is the most common wedding anniversary, and mass weddings of hundreds of couples are not uncommon on this date. The holiday has even spread to children, who exchange Valentine’s day cards in their school classes. I hope this article has given you more to think about as Valentine’s Day rolls around!