Valentine’s Day can trace its roots farther back than its modern-day association with greeting cards and flower shops.
The Romans celebrated the “ Feast of Lupercalia”, festival of fertility on February 15th, where boys and girls were matched by drawing names the day before, February 14th. The pairs would stay together for the duration of Lupercalia or until next year’s celebration, by which time many had fallen in love and married. By the third century, the Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage, deeming single men to be better soldiers for his army. Along came priest Valentine who defied his ruler and continued to perform weddings. This defiance earned him his execution on February 14th and he was later elevated to sainthood.
Other versions of legend Valentine have him helping Christians escape persecution, only to be caught and sentenced to death. While in prison, Valentine falls in love with the jailer’s daughter and before his death, sends his sweetheart a love note ending with the notation, “From your Valentine”.
To commemorate these events, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th “St. Valentine’s Day” in the year 498, putting an end to the former pagan celebration.
By the Middle Ages, people in England and France saw February 14th as the day when birds started to look for their mates, further linking this day with notions of romance. St. Valentine was later named the patron saint of lovers.
The mass-produced cards of today grew out of the popularity of handmade love notes, or “Valentines”, exchanged by sweethearts and it is now celebrated as a day of love and friendship.
Yours in friendship,