Valentine’s Day: A History

Madeline Sipos

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Everyone associates Valentine’s Day with roses and chocolates, but it wasn’t always that way. Valentine’s Day was originally called Lupercalia, which was a spring festival that included goat sacrifices and pairing off men and women. It was held under the superintendence of Luperci, or Roman priests. In 494 CE, Pope Gelasius I changed the pagan festival into a Christian feast. This feast would celebrate the holy works of St. Valentine.

There were several Valentines, but Valentine of Terni was the most likely namesake. He was a Roman priest and physician, but other sources identify him as the bishop of Terni. In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, because so little is kno

wn about him. However, the church still recognizes him as a saint, listing him in the February 14 spot of Roman Martyrolgy. The most well known story of Valentine alleges the emperor had outlawed marriage because he needed men to be soldiers instead of husbands. Valentine married couples in secret to keep the husbands out of the battlefields. Because of this he was imprisoned and while imprisoned he healed the jailer’s blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.” From this message is where we get the tradition of sending Valentines to our loved ones. Valentine became a saint in the late 5th century and is now the patron saint of lovers, epileptics, and beekeepers.

Around the fourteenth century, Valentine’s Day became a day for lovers. Those in England and France noticed

 that February 14 marked the beginning of bird-mating season, and Valentine’s Day became associated with love. Valentine’s Day messages began to be sent around 1400. By the 17th century, Valentine’s Day became increasingly popular in Great Britain, where lovers would exchange small tokens of their love. It spread to North America in the 1800s. Esther A. Howland, also known as the “Mother of Valentine”, made homemade Valentine cards with lace, ribbon, and colorf

ul hues. These were known as “scrap” cards, and became mainstream in the mid-1800s. Howland’s cards were the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards in America. Several other companies began printing cards in the 1900s, thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Today, we give cards, flowers, sweets, and other presents. Hearts and cupids are popular décor, along with the colors white, pink, and red. Valentine’s Day was, and continues to be, a day of love.