What is Valentine's Day? Where did it come from? Is it Christian?
All these answers and much more information is found in this post.
This is from the site http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/valentine
Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are
exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But
who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday?
The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded
in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of
romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges
of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with
this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least
three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom
were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who
served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II
decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives
and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of
potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree,
defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers
in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered
that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may
have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman
prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the
first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed
that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been
his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement.
Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he
signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use
today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the
stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and,
most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the
Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England
While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle
of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or
burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that
the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast
day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize'
celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome,
February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a
time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them
out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt
throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of
February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus,
the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders
Romulus and Remus. To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an
order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the
infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to
have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then
sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The
boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the
sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women
and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful,
Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was
believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year.
Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the
city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would
then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year
with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498
A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-
Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was
commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the
beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the
middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance.
The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem
written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was
imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle
of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the
manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.
Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer
named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of
In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated
around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth
century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes
to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the
end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters
due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an
easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct
expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates
also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending
Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-
made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland
began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion
valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second
largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion
cards are sent for Christmas.) Approximately 85 percent of all
valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States,
Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom,
France, and Australia.
Cupid, the child-like, winged deity often associated with our modern
Valentine's day, is the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. In
Greek mythology, Cupid is known as Aphrodites's son Eros.
There are varying ideas about what actually became of Valentine.
While some say he was beheaded, others contend that he became sick in
prison and died. In 1835, the remains--or what are believed to be the
remains--of St. Valentine were given to an Irish priest named Father
John Spratt by Pope Gregory XVI, after Spratt inpressed the Pope with
his passionate preaching during a visit to Rome. The gift, in a black
and gold casket, can still be viewed every Valentine's Day at the
Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland.
A portion of the site
Pagan origins of Valentine's Day
The first information about this day is found in pre-Christian Rome,
when pagans would celebrate the "Feast of the Wolf" on February 15,
also known as the Feast of Lupercalius in honor of Februata Juno, the
Roman goddess of women and marriage, and Pan, Roman god of nature.
On this day, young women would place their names in an urn, from
which boys would randomly draw to discover their sexual companion for
the day, the year, and sometimes the rest of their lives. These
partners exchanged gifts as a sign of affection, and often married.
When Christianity came onto the scene in Rome, it wanted to replace
this feast with something more in line with its ethics and morality.
A number of Christians decided to use February 14 for this purpose.
This was when the Italian Bishop Valentine was executed by the Roman
Emperor Claudius II for conducting secret marriages of military men
in the year 270.
Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those
with wives and families, so he outlawed marriage for young, single
men, who made up his military. Valentine defied Claudius and
performed marriages for young couples in secret. When his actions
were revealed, Claudius put him to death.
Another version of the story says that Valentine was a holy priest in
Rome, who helped Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they
were often beaten and tortured.
Valentine was arrested and sent to the prefect of Rome for this. He
found that his attempts to make Valentine renounce his faith were
useless, and so recommended he be beaten with clubs, and later
beheaded. This took place on February 14, 270.
According to the Catholic encyclopedia, there are at least three
different Saint Valentines, all of whom are Christian martyrs of
One of them is described as a priest from Rome (as mentioned above),
another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and the third from
It was in the year 496 that Pope Gelasius officially changed the
February 15 Lupercalia festival to the February 14 St. Valentine's
Day to give Christian meaning to a pagan festival. The holiday become
popular in the United States in the 1800's during the Civil War.
As well, Pope Gelasius ordered a slight change in the lottery for
young women that would take place during the pagan festival.
Instead of the names of young women, the box would have the names of
saints. Men and women were allowed to draw from the box, and the
purpose of this was to copy the ways of the saint they had selected
for the rest of the year.
More links to the history of Valantine's Day.
Valantines history/symobols/phobias and stuff!
History of the Valentine Card
The history of ....