Origins of Valentine’s Day

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Though theories on pagan traditions are closer explanations of how Valentine’s Day emerged, several people opted the religious theory of February 14’s origin.

Historical experts—some historians and archaeologists—consider three theories that explain the origins of this universal celebration of love and romance. However, only two of the three theories link the day to romance. The last involves martyrdom during the pre-Christian era.

The first theory considered by historians is the feast of Lupercalia. On February 14, a day before the real festival of Lupercalia begins; the Romans honored Juno who was the queen and goddess of marriage and women of the Roman mythology. On the day of festival, Roman women would write love letters and put them in a large urn so that men could choose from. Then, a man would pursue the woman who authored his chosen letter.

The Eastern people’s tradition of exchanging love letters on February 14 is another theory linking romance and Valentine’s Day. During the Middle Ages, the Europeans believed that birds began to mate on February 14.

The third theory, which is well known today, came from archaeologists who uncover an ancient church and Roman catacomb for St. Valentine. Until now, they are not sure how many Valentines there are. The Catholic Church even recognizes three different saints named Valentine who lived during the third century. All the death of these three Valentines happened on February 14.

The popular one was a Roman priest who practiced Christianity. He celebrated masses and performed marriages against the orders of Emperor Claudius II. Even at the brink of death, the Roman priest did not deny his beliefs. They say that before his death, he sent a friend a note signed “From your Valentine.” This phrase is until now a famous card message.

Following the course of history, people accepted more the Christian origin of Valentine’s Day rather than the two pagan traditions. Hundreds of years after, St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers and Pope Galasius named February 14 after him. In 1969 however, Pope Paul VI removed the celebration from the calendar. The martyrdom of the saint and the influence of Roman festival in the history made the celebration of Valentine’s Day exist until today.

Modifications of Valentine’s Day happened as time changed. Before, Valentine’s Day cards were custom-made using colored paper and colored inks. There were pinprick cards, cutout designed letters, rebus valentines, and acrostic valentines to name a few.

The first mass-produced card was decorated with black and white pictures in 1800s. Later on, cards were decorated with silk, lace, flowers, feathers, satin, and sometimes golden leaf. Because of advanced technology, modern Valentine’s Day card has become sophisticated. At first, manufacturers made greeting post cards until they also developed cards with recorded romantic messages, pop-out images, and love songs. The introduction of Internet also opened doors for a new way of sending letters. Lovers can now send love letters through electronic mail.

Today, people give chocolates and flowers other than cards. Valentine’s Day is now highly commercialized.


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