Valentine's Day is one of the oldest and most popular holidays around the world. Every year, February rolls around and all anyone can see is the redness of Valentine's Day approaching. Valentine's Day is the second biggest holiday for holiday card companies, and it doesn't look like it's going to slow down anytime soon. But where did Valentine's Day originate? What is the history of Valentine's Day and why do we celebrate it the way we do?
Valentine's Day is said to have several different legends of how it originated. The most popular theory being about Saint Valentine from the 3rd Century in Rome. Saint Valentine was a priest during this era who specialized in marrying couples. During this time, Rome was ruled by a man by the name of Emperor Claudius II. Emperor Claudius was an illogical war-mongering ruler with a massive case of the power trips, much like the majority of rulers in this time period.
Emperor Claudius was having trouble getting his men together to participate in military actions. It seems that people didn't enjoy fighting in senseless wars in this time period as well. Like any normal person, Claudius assumed that the men were refusing to join the military because they didn't want to leave their wives and families, and made the decision to effectively outlaw marriage. By outlawing marriage, Emperor Claudius would be able to get more men in his army, since the men won't have the distraction of women to worry about.
Needless to say, most of the people under Emperor Claudius' reign did not take too kindly to this new law, including Saint Valentine himself. In an attempt to stand up to the Emperor's absurd new law, Saint Valentine decided that he was going to marry young couples who wanted to get married, in secret.
Saint Valentine's scheme went well for a while, but eventually word got out and Emperor Claudius found out. As you can imagine, Emperor Claudius was rather furious when he heard about this. He ordered that Saint Valentine be seized and dealt with accordingly.
Saint Valentine was indeed seized, and taken to jail. This is where another legend starts to emerge. While Saint Valentine was awaiting his fate in jail, he received many visitors who supported his brave actions and felt he should be freed. One of these visitors seemed to take a special liking to Saint Valentine, and vice versa as well. She was the daughter of the jail guard who watched over Saint Valentine. The jail guard would often let his daughter come in and talk to Saint Valentine, keeping his spirits up.
It is said that when Saint Valentine finally left the jail to face his ultimate punishment, he left a note for the jail guard's daughter thanking her for her companionship and kindness, signing it "From Your Valentine".
Saint Valentine was then taken to be martyred for his actions of secretly marrying young couples despite the Emperor's insane new law, on February 14th, 269 A.D.
During this time in Rome, February 14th was already a holiday to be celebrated. This was the holiday to honor Juno, the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses, also known as the Goddess of women and marriage. On February 15, a festival known as the Feast of Lupercalia started.
Lupercalia was celebrated by having all the young boys and girls meet and draw names out of a jar. The names were of the other girls that were written onto little slips of paper. The boys would choose a name from the jar, and whoever it came out to be, that's whom they would spend the rest of the festival with.
Sometimes, the boys and girls would just hang out during the festival, while other times they ended up hitting it off and staying together. Some of the young couples even wound up falling in love and marrying each other down the line. This is quite similar to what we see in today's Valentine's Day traditions.
Eventually, this paganistic holiday began to conflict with the rising Christian Church in Rome that felt the holiday was not religious enough. So, in an effort to change the holiday for the better (in their eyes), they abolished it completely and changed the holiday to Saint Valentine's Day, in memory of the martyred pastor who bravely stood up to the maniacal Emperor's controlling laws.
Nowadays, this holiday is still celebrated a lot like the original February 14th holiday was intended to be celebrated, but also incorporates a little bit of Saint Valentine's story as well. We see young children passing notes to each other and giving each other cards to read, signing them "From Your Valentine". But Valentine's Day isn't limited to children anymore; in fact, couples of all ages all around the world take part in Valentine's Day celebrations. Valentine's Day, for adults, is a very special holiday. It is a day where a couple can focus only on each other, a day where a couple can go out for a nice dinner and a movie, come home and celebrate their love the old fashioned way.
It's amazing that a holiday this old, that has had so many opportunities to just die off, still thrives 1800 years later in our modern world. The evolution of the holiday has been interesting as well. Valentine's Day is a day that no woman forgets and a day where love is put on a pedestal. Saint Valentine himself would be pleased to see what his brave actions have resulted in. Not only does this holiday do wonders to stimulate the economy, it is also one of the only worldwide holidays that have almost nothing to do with religious beliefs.
What's in store for the future of Valentine's Day? How long will this holiday remain as popular as it is? Valentine's Day, like Halloween, seems to be one of those holidays that are just simply here to stay. Most people may not know the history of Valentine's Day, but it's apparent that everyone knows exactly how to celebrate it. Now that you know the history of Valentine's Day, why not educate someone else? It's always interesting knowing where long-time traditions like this originate.