On February 14th every year is celebrated in the United States and some other countries around the world, a special day called Valentine’s Day. On this day people exchange gifts, candies, flowers and greeting cards with their loved ones, friends and family. However, in reality, most of them don’t know who the saint Valentine was or what the significance of Valentine’s Day is.
1. St. Valentine and the Significance of Valentine’s Day
In the books of the Catholic Church, there were at least three saints named Valentine and all of them were eventually martyred. One specific legend contends that there was a priest named Valentine in ancient Rome who refuted his Emperor Claudius’s orders of not allowing his soldiers to marry young women. However, he defied the orders and made the soldiers to love and marry. As a consequence, when his actions were discovered, he was sentenced a death penalty.
According to another story, an imprisoned saint Valentine sent his first “Valentine” greeting to the jailor’s daughter, in ancient Rome, who he loved so much. His message was “From your Valentine”, an expression that became the hallmark of the celebration that takes place on this day and is very much existent even today.
2. Beginning of Valentine’s Day: A Controversial Festival
According to one popular belief Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of the month of February so as to commemorate the death anniversary of St. Valentine, which occurred around A.D. 270. Others say that the day is celebrated in an effort to “Christianize” the Lupercalia, a pagan celebration for the fertility festival, dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.
The early roots of this festival dates back to ancient Rome, where members of the Luperci, which was a group of Roman priests, would gather at a holy cave where Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, both in their infantry, were getting care from lupa, a she-wolf. The priests were believed to make a goat sacrificed, for fertility, and a dog for refining. In ancient Rome, bachelors would often choose a name and become paired for the year with the woman of their choice. Eventually, such matches would often result in marriage.
3. Valentine‘s Day: The Day of Romance
The Lupercalia festival initially survived the rise of Christianity but was then outlawed and was deemed against Christianity. Later Pope Gelasius, at the end of the 5th century, declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day. However, it was not much-much later that this day got completely associated with love.
Also, according to a common belief, during the Middle Ages, in France and England, the day, that was February 14, was considered as the commencement of the birds’ mating period that propelled the idea that the mid of Valentine’s Day must be the day of romance.
4. Classical Valentine’s Day Greetings
Valentine’s Day is typically celebrated in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, France and Mexico. The day began to be celebrated around the 17th century in the UK and by the later years of the 18th century it was common for people of all social classes to exchange tokens of love and affection with their lovers. The early 1900’s was the age of ready-made cards which were an easy means for people of all factions to express their love and feelings.
Low-cost postage rates and better transportation facilities was another reason for the rise in popularity of exchanging Valentine’s Day cards. As on the present day, the Greeting Card Association informs that an approx. 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent and received each year, which makes the day as the second largest card-sending festive occasion of the year (after Christmas).