Valentines Day History

History of Valentine's Day

When the calendar changes to February, we start to think about love. February has been designated for centuries as the month of lovers, with the main celebration being February 14, Valentine's Day. We send cards, flowers and sweets and our children give Valentine's Day at school. Valentine's Day reminds us to tell our loved ones how much we care about them.

Valentine's day history
Valentine's day history

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But have you ever stopped to think about the history of the holidays? Do you know why February 14 is called Valentine's Day and how the tradition of sending cards to each other developed? How was that day associated with love?

Valentine's Day was originally created as a substitute. In the 5th century AD, the Catholic Church attempted to get rid of a common pagan fertility rite that the Romans had been participating in since the 4th century BC. Every year, the Romans celebrated a young man's rite of passage to the god Lupercus with a lottery in mid-February. The names of the willing teenage girls were placed in a box and randomly drawn by teenage men. Through this lottery, a young man was assigned a partner for her mutual pleasure (often sexual) for a year. After the year another lottery was held. As Christianity spread and Church leaders resolved to end this practice by choosing a "saint of lovers" to replace the god Luperch, they chose Valentine, a bishop who had been martyred in the 3rd century AD. for the sake of love.

In 270 AD, Emperor Claudius had issued an edict forbidding marriage because he believed that married men were poor soldiers, not wanting to leave their families to go to battle. Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, disagreed with the emperor and invited the young lovers to return secretly to him to marry. When Claudio discovered that he was performing secret marriage ceremonies, he was outraged. He had Valentine seized and brought before him. When Valentine refused to change his mind and renounce Christianity, he was imprisoned pending his execution. In February 270, Valentine was beaten, stoned, and later beheaded.

Tradition tells us that while Valentine was in prison he corresponded with those in his care by sending small letters and love notes to those in his parish. It is also believed that while he was in prison, the bishop fell in love with the jailer's blind daughter, Asterius, and that God allowed him to miraculously restore her sight. Tradition tells us that her farewell message to her contained a closure that transcended time: "From your Valentine."

Valentine's history
Valentine's Love

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In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius outlawed the Luperian feast, but he cleverly withheld the lottery because he was aware of the Romans' love of gambling. But now, instead of women's names on the box, there were names of saints. Both men and women collected scraps of paper and for the next year they were expected to imitate the life of the saint whose name they had drawn. And Valentine moved forward as supervisor of everything. It took some time for this new tradition to take hold, but eventually more and more Romans abandoned the Luperian festival and replaced it with Valentine's Day.

Traditionally, mainly due to the Luperian lottery, mid-February was a Roman time to meet and court potential partners. While the Luperian lottery was replaced, most young Romans weren't entirely satisfied with the lottery of the names of the saints and therefore the new lottery didn't last long. Instead, the young men instituted the custom of offering women they admired and desired to woo handwritten greetings of affection on February 14. The cards became known as Valentine's Day Cards.


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