HomeOthersValentine's Day Its Origins and Why We Celebrate It

Valentine’s Day Its Origins and Why We Celebrate It

Although Valentine’s Day is associated with romance, the holiday’s origins aren’t precisely romantic. Here’s what you might not know about Valentine’s Day’s history, as well as the date of Valentine’s Day 2022 so you can plan ahead.
Whether you adore or despise Valentine’s Day, one thing is certain: it has a long history. While Valentine’s Day is today synonymous with kissing, gifts, and difficult-to-get dinner reservations, the holiday’s beginnings are far less romantic. Here’s the Valentine’s Day narrative that wouldn’t make it into a romantic comedy, complete with a saint, a massacre, and even Valentine’s Day’s immoral nuns (really!).

What is the date of Valentine’s Day?

Let’s start with a little refresher: The 14th of February is always Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day in 2022 will be on Monday, February 14, whereas Valentine’s Day in 2021 was on Sunday. (For those who like to prepare ahead, Valentine’s Day in 2023 is Tuesday, February 14.)

Pope Gelasius named February 14th St. Valentine’s Day at the end of the fifth century, and it has been a day of celebration ever since—though it was generally more religious or romantic.

What was the origin of Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is a set date on the calendar that was merged with Lupercalia, a mid-February holiday on the ancient Roman calendar, which some historians believe is how Valentine’s Day came to be associated with love. Lupercalia was a fertility festival that may have involved a ceremony in which men and women were matched by picking names from a jar. The marriage of the god Zeus and the goddess Hera was commemorated in Ancient Greece with a mid-winter festival.

What was the name of Saint Valentine? (And what do chocolate hearts have to do with him?)

It turns out, not much. Valentine’s Day is a Catholic feast day that was established to the liturgical calendar approximately 500 AD. The day was honored in honor of martyred saints named Valentine. Different traditions honor three different saints known as Valentine or Valentinus, but the feast day was removed from the Christian liturgical calendar in 1969 because nothing was known about these men and there were competing accounts of the Saint Valentine Day tale.

Despite the fact that little is known about the historical history of the Saint Valentines on whom the holiday is founded, there are various versions of Saint Valentine’s mythology. According to legend, Saint Valentine refused to convert to paganism and was put to death by Claudius II, the Roman Emperor. Prior to his death, he miraculously healed his jailer’s daughter, who later converted to Christianity with his family. According to another tale, the true namesake of the event is a bishop named Saint Valentine of Terni, who was also executed.

Others claim that Saint Valentine was a Roman priest who performed weddings for soldiers who were banned to marry due to an emperor’s proclamation that married soldiers did not make excellent warriors and hence young men could not marry. This Saint Valentine had a ring with a Cupid on it, which served as a sign of love and helped soldiers identify him. He also distributed paper hearts as a predecessor to greeting cards to remind Christians of their love for God.

St. Valentine became renowned as the patron saint of love as a result of this tradition. Saint Valentine is asked in the Saint Valentine prayer to unite lovers so that they become one and remember their devotion to God.

While the Saint Valentine story laid the groundwork for the day’s establishment as a holiday dedicated to romantic love, it was a poem written by medieval author Geoffrey Chaucer in 1381 that historians believe is the source of the “modern” Valentine’s Day celebration, in which we honor our romantic relationships with one another.

What is the significance of Valentine’s Day?

Chaucer lived during the Middle Ages, a time when courtly love was celebrated via broad, lyrical expressions of devotion—poems, ballads, and paintings. The word “valentine” was being used to designate a lover in poems and ballads by the end of the 15th century, and a book called The Young Man’s Valentine Writer was published in England in the 18th century. Valentine’s Day as we know it began in the mid-nineteenth century, when mass-produced paper Valentine’s Cards were introduced (but DIY Valentine card ideas are still worth trying).

The reality about Valentine’s Day history is that the romantic holiday has seen its fair share of sorrow. On February 14, 1929, seven men were slain by a group commanded by Al Capone in Chicago during Prohibition. The Valentine’s Day Massacre became a turning point in Prohibition history, with police and legislators pursuing gangs and mobs that had formed in cities to control then-illegal substances like alcohol.

What exactly is the significance of Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day has been a religious holiday, an ancient ritual day, and a commercial holiday over the years (and centuries). Because of all of these changes, the meaning of Valentine’s Day can be whatever you want it to be: you can skip the festivities entirely, buy yourself some chocolate or flowers, or express your love and appreciation for the people in your life, whether they’re coworkers, romantic partners, friends, or family members. Some people adore Valentine’s Day, while others despise it; Galentine’s Day is a relatively new manner of commemorating women’s love for their closest friends.

So, whichever you choose to commemorate Valentine’s Day, even if it’s just via self-love, do so. A romantic supper out, a trip to the movies, preparing a special meal at home, or throwing a Valentine’s Day party are all excellent ways to commemorate the day.

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