Every February 14 millions of people around the world prepare to celebrate the greatest holiday of love; a holiday of flowers, candy, jewelry, romantic dinners and poems of love and affection. But how did such a holiday come to inspire lovers to so lavishly shower gifts upon each other?
In ancient Rome, the feast of Lupercalia was celebrated on February 15, and honored the god Lupercus, who protected the villages from wolves. However Lupercalia was also a holiday of love. All the single young women would put their name into a bowl, and then the single young men would draw names. There would be dancing and merriment as the couples partnered, and frequently they would become sweethearts and fall in love.
Though the feast of Lupercalia was revived in the middle ages, it seems the holiday of romance has a greater connection with a third century Roman priest named Valentine. Though the true tales are shrouded in mystery, it is said that Valentine was actually imprisoned by Emperor Claudius II. The Emperor had decided that the best soldiers were unmarried soldiers, so he outlawed marriage to ensure a strong army. Valentine, believing this to be a ridiculous notion, continued to perform marriages in secret (in the name of love, of course!).
After he was imprisoned it is said that he fell in love with his jailor’s daughter; a sweet young maiden who paid him frequent visits. Sadly, Claudius had ordered that Valentine be put to death, but not before Valentine managed to send the object of his affection a love note signed “your Valentine,” a phrase which is still popular to this day!
In the non-romantic tale it is said that Valentine actually loved children and used to teach them to make little bouquets of flowers. When he was imprisoned the jailor’s daughter (who was a child) befriended the priest, and before his death, Valentine sent her a small bouquet with a card signed “from your Valentine.”
Valentine was beheaded in the third century on February 14.
Though Valentine lived in the third century, paper valentines did not actually become popular until the 18th century. And their popularity has grown ever since.
And whether you give a pre-made valentine card, or a hand made one filled with your own original prose, do remember that once upon a time there was a man who so believed in love and romance that he went to jail for it, forever becoming a hero for love and one of the most popular saints of our time.