The history of Valentine’s Day is a little fuzzy.
Valentine’s Day brings to mind gifts, hearts, love, cards, candy, and a big deal in the retail and card environment. As a matter of fact, it has been estimated that Valentine’s Day spending ranks second in sales to Christmas. It also ranks second to Christmas in card giving. Have you ever thought about why or when this holiday became important?
The history of St. Valentine’s Day is a little fuzzy. St. Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate Saint Valentine and what he believed in and stood for. The problem is, no one exactly knows who St. Valentine is! The history behind Saint Valentine is so murky, in 1969, the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine’s Day from the Roman calendar of official, worldwide Catholic feasts. However, there are a couple of different theories on who St. Valentine was and why we celebrate that Valentine’s Day.
One theory is that during the Middle Ages, in Europe it was believed that birds chose their partners in the middle of February. Thus the Valentine’s Day was dedicated to love and people observed it by writing love letters and sending small gifts. It is also thought that Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent the first real Valentine card to his wife in 1415, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Some say St. Valentine, was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. He was apprehended and sent to Rome where he refused to renounce his faith. The judge commanded him to be put to death and he was executed on February 14, about the year 270 AD.
It is also said there could have been more than one St. Valentine! The second St. Valentine is believed to have been a priest during the reign of Claudius II. Claudius had a hard time getting soldiers to fight his wars, so he forbid young men from marrying. Valentine disagreed with the emperor and performed secret marriages. When Claudius discovered Valentine’s actions, he threw the priest in jail. In this belief, Valentine was also executed on February 14.
And yet another theory is that the ancient Romans dedicated February 14 as a day of love. On that day, Romans honored Juno, the goddess of women and marriage. If they praised Juno, Romans believed that the goddess would help young men and women find their future wives and husbands. On February 14, the boys each drew a girl’s name from a container. When all the girls’ names were picked the next day, each boy paired up with the girl whose name he chose for another holiday to honor the god Lupercus. Older adults hoped that each pair of boys and girls would fall in love during the festival.
Confused yet? Me too.
It would be nice to know what the real history of Valentine’s Day is, but it is also fascinating to see all the theories out there about St. Valentine and St. Valentine’s Day.
Whatever the truth may be, today, the purpose of Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a dedicated day to show the people you love just how much you love them. While gifts, candy, and flowers are nice, a hand written note or poem would suffice as well. Or even, just an extra “I love you” on Valentine’s Day to tell the ones you love just how much they mean to you.