The Origin of Valentine’s Day Might Surprise You
There’s no lovey-dovey backstory here. ?
While it may be tempting to think of Valentine’s Day as a modern holiday meant just for indulging our shopping and sugary impulses, this day of heart-shaped festivity actually has an ancient—and fascinating—origin story…or rather, mystery. While we celebrate Valentine’s Day today with DIY Valentine’s Day cards, gifts of jewelry or flowers, and romantic Valentine’s Day dinners, the history of the holiday is actually quite surprising (get ready to queue up those Valentine’s Day Instagram captions with some shocking trivia!). We are here with Origin of Valentine’s Day Might Surprise You | Full Facts here.
So how did February 14 first come to be considered the day of love? And what’s the origin of Valentine’s Day—and why have its romantic themes persisted to this day? Oh, and while we’re at it, where does the word “Valentine” come from?
As it turns out, nobody really knows the true history behind this storied holiday, nor do any of the theories completely check out. Even historians find themselves arguing over the exact traditions from which the present-day holiday takes inspiration.
But we’re sharing as much as we know about the topic, including the murky origin of Valentine’s Day and its interesting history. Its backstory—though not confirmed—is actually quite dark and even a bit bloody. Strange traditions, pagan rituals, and grisly executions abound. If you’re not faint of heart, though, you’ll enjoy learning about everything we’ve compiled here. Who knows? It might even inform your Valentine’s Day wishes!
WHERE DOES THE WORD VALENTINE COME FROM?
The day is named, of course, for St. Valentine—we all know that by now. But why? Who is this mysterious Valentine?
According to The New York Times, it’s possible that the love-filled holiday is based on a combination of two men. There were, after all, two Valentines executed on February 14 (albeit in different years) by Emperor Claudius II, reports NPR. It’s believed that the Catholic Church may have established St. Valentine’s Day in order to honor these men, who they believed to be martyrs. What’s more, it’s possible that one of these men, Saint Valentine of Terni, had been secretly officiating weddings for Roman soldiers against the emperor’s wishes, making him, in some eyes, a proponent of love.
Another story involves the practice of writing love letters to your Valentine. It’s said that St. Valentine wrote the first “valentine” greeting to a young girl he tutored and fell in love with while he was imprisoned for the crimes outlined above. According to The History Channel, before his death, he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” which remains a commonly used phrase to this day.
Other Views about Origin of Valentine’s Day
Others believe that St. Valentine’s Day was actually designated by Pope Gelasius I in order to replace the ancient Roman festival Lupercalia, a celebration of fertility dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunas, and Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
The feast of debauchery fell around the same time and involved a ritual where an order of Roman priests ran naked through the streets, “gently slapping” women with the blood-soaked hides of sacrificed animals (yes, really), which they believed promoted fertility. Following this flagellation was a tradition in which men selected women’s names at random from a jar to decide who would remain together for the next year, or if they fell in love, they’d marry.
Notwithstanding, a University of Kansas English educator, the late Jack B. Oruch, had an alternate hypothesis, notes the Times: Through examination, he established that the writer Geoffrey Chaucer connected love with St. Valentine without precedent for his fourteenth century works “The Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars.” Therefore, Oruch asserted that Chaucer developed Valentine’s Day as we probably am aware it today. (At the hour of Chaucer’s composition, February 14 additionally turned out to be viewed as the principal day of spring in Britain, since it was the start of flying creatures’ mating season—totally proper for a festival of fondness.)
WHY DO WE CELEBRATE VALENTINES DAY/ORIGIN?
Regardless of whether Chaucer can be completely credited, the facts confirm that he and individual author Shakespeare promoted the loving affiliations encompassing the day. Before long, individuals started writing and exchanging love letters to observe Valentine’s Day, and by the mid-1910s, an American organization that would one day become Hallmark started conveying its more official “Valentine’s Day cards.” Flowers, sweets, gems, and more followed, and the rest, obviously, is history.
WHAT PART DOES CUPID PLAY ON VALENTINE’S DAY?
It’s not about St. Valentine! Cupid—that winged child kid was frequently observed on Valentine’s Day cards and stuff—is another image of this adoration filled occasion, and it’s straightforward why. In Roman folklore, Cupid was the child of Venus, goddess of adoration and excellence. He was known for shooting bolts at the two divine beings and people, making them fall in a flash in affection with each other. While it’s indistinct precisely when Cupid was brought into the Valentine’s Day story, it’s absolutely clear why.