Valentine’s day conjures up images of red roses, chocolate, and heart shapes on Valentine’s day cards. The modern celebration of love differs in many ways from the origins of the holiday, and the namesake of Saint Valentine has an interesting story steeped in legend.
As with many other holidays, Valentine’s day has its roots in what else but the Roman Empire. Lupercalia was a fertility festival observed in the city of Rome from the 13th to the 15th of February. Sacrifices were made, offerings were given, and women who wished to conceive were slapped by Lupercalia priests called Luperci.
The connection with this Roman holiday has avidly been contradicted, although the church is known to have taken many pagan aspects and repackaged them as Christian. The Christian part involves a legend of a few martyred saints, named Valentine. The most famous one involves a Christian priest named Valentine practicing in the Roman period under the emperor Claudius II. It is believed that the emperor banned marriages, due to the fact that he needed soldiers to stay focused on wars with the goths. Valentine presumably defied this ban and kept marrying young lovers in secret. Valentine was found out, arrested, and sentenced to death. The legend does not end here though, as the daughter of the jailor fell for Valentine, and before he was executed he sent her a letter signing it “from your Valentine”, to explain the “be my Valentine” tradition.
This legend seems like a very cookie-cutter explanation for the whole holiday. Oftentimes history does not provide enough evidence for many things that remain forever unexplained, but Valentine’s day has every aspect of it traced down to one instance and one person in time. It is more likely that the Christian Church adapted and incorporated pagan elements to attract worshipers and enlarge the faith. We also see the Greek god of love and sex, Eros become Cupid in Roman mythology and now is plastered all over Valentine’s day cards.
Whatever the origins of Valentine’s day is, one thing is for certain, people want to love and the mere idea of love is enough to dedicate a whole holiday to it. The amount of Valentine’s day cards shared every year is rivaled only by Christmas, a testament to the popularity of the holiday. Apart from gifting each other Valentine’s Day cards, couples also plan dates by candlelight, with a perfect meal, wine, chocolate, and diamonds. Celebrating Valentine’s Day has spread across the globe and many different people in different countries celebrate the holiday of love.
The consumerism aspect of Valentine’s Day is what many people dislike about the holiday. As the popularity of Valentine’s day spread around the globe, many countries look to local celebrations of love that reflect their own views or with roots in native customs and legends.
Valentine’s Day as it is celebrated now has gone through many centuries of change and metamorphosis, the future has hindsight and it may change again. It is important to have love and love is worth celebrating.