Valentine’s Day. Every February 14, gifts and nice promises are exchanged between lovers, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who was this romantic saint, and where did these traditions come from?
An old Roman legend says that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. Then, the Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives, Valentine rebelled and started to marry people secretly. Of course, when Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius II ordered that he be put to death… Poor man! However, since people were so thankful to him, they started to build altars in his honor and place presents there. “From your Valentine” the dedications said, and expression still very popular on February 14.
Thus, Saint Valentine started to be a beloved saint and by the Middle Ages, he was one of the most important saints in France and England.
Of course, there are other legends about the romantic saint and not all of them of Christian origin. Some historians claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s celebration in the middle of February in an effort to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. It was celebrated at the ides of February (on February 15). Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. Since gods and goddess of agriculture as always been associated to fertility, these days rituals of fertility were made and these matches often ended in happy marriage.
Anyway, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century in Europe and America. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for lovers of all social classes to exchange small presents or handwritten notes. By 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology.
Today, all around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between romantic lovers.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Yareah magazine readers.