The Origins of Valentine’s Day

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Saint Valentine Photo from St. Valentine HD on YouTube

What are the origins of Valentine’s Day?  In history, there are multiple legends that speak of a saint named Valentine or Valentino.

One story is set in the third century in Rome with a priest known as Valentine.  Emperor Claudius II said that men could not marry because they were better fighters when they don’t have wives or a family. Saint Valentine would marry the fighters and their partners. He thought it was wrong that they weren’t allowed to be married, so Valentine would marry them in secret to try to keep it from the emperor. Eventually, the emperor discovered what Valentine was doing and ordered him to death.

Another legend tells that Valentine helped Christians escape from prisons in Rome.  According to history.com, “an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression that is still in use today.”   The oldest written valentine known today is from 1415. It was “a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.” 

Another possible origin of Valentine’s Day could be a festival, Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15. The festival tradition allowed a man to select a woman’s name out of a hat, and they would have to be together for an entire year. The legend says that most of these couples ended up married. At the end of the fifth-century, the Pope declared that Valentine’s Day was going to be February 14.  He also put an end to the festivals because they were “un-Christian.”

But why did the Pope select February 14 for Valentine’s Day?   It was believed to be Saint Valentine’s death or burial date. In addition, New England and France mark February 14 as the beginning of the birds’ mating season.  Saint Valentine’s Day is still celebrated throughout the world, honoring the champion of romance and true love.

 

Resources:

History.com

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