Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Origins of Valentine's Day

I have always been curious, I suppose you could say I have a thirst for knowledge. Before D I would spend hours search Google for random things that popped into my head. Now they tend to just stay there until 1) I forget about it or 2) I get some free time to look into it. Valentines day is fast approaching and with it we find we hear more and more people view it as a 'commercial holiday' made up by shops to make us spend money. This year I really started to wonder about it and wanted to find out where it comes from, I thought it would be nice to share my findings with you.

Valentines day and its origins are actually a bit of a mystery, meaning we cannot pin point that particular time or fully understand the origins. However we do know that it stems from the 5th century, there is a deep connection in the christian and roman religion. The bible mentions or talks about at least three saints named Valentine or Valentinus. One of the myths or legends states that Valentine was a priest in the Rome during the 3rd century. At the time the emperor (Emperor Claudius II) had decided to outlaw young marriage as he believe single men made better solders however Valentine  kept marrying young couple in secret, once his emperor found out he was ordered he be put to death. According to one of the myths or legends St Valentine was the one to send the first Valentine while he was imprisoned and had fallen in love. He is said to have written her a letter signed 'from your Valentine'. we don't have any evidence tied to the origins of valentines day however we do know that all of the myths or legends out there have the same underlying facts he was a sympathetic, heroic and romantic figure.
The 14th of February itself is a romantic for us in the 21st century, the month of February has long-held much importance for being a month of romance ( could you imagine celebrating a whole month worth of romance?). The date itself is for one of two reasons;
1. It is the day to celebrate the anniversary of St Valentines death or burial which happened around A.D. 270.
2. It was the christian church who choose the date so as to bring a christian meaning to the day which is also shared by the pagan celebration of  Lupercalia.
Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, it was celebrated on the 15th of February. The festival was began by an order of roman priests called Luperi would come to a sacred cave which was believed to be the home of thelupa (she-wolf) who cared for Romulus and Remus who are the founders of Rome. They would perform a ritual involving the sacrifice of a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. After which they would then strip the goats hide into strips before dipping them in sacrificial blood. They would then take to streets slapping woman and crop fields with the hides of the goat.In A.D. 496 The pope declared that the 14th of February was to be St Valentines day which was to be a christian feast day.

It wasn't until the 5th century that the 14th of February was deemed Valentine's Day. (it's no wonder we don't know where it came from if it was 2 century's after it was thought to have it origins.) It took much longer before Valentine's Day was connected with love. In the middle ages the English and French thought that February 14th was the beginning of birds mating season (Is it just me or do English people always like to be odd in history?).

A written valentine only appeared after 1400. the oldest valentine we have today is from 1415 which is written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, it is to his wife. (How cool is that?) It wasn't until the 18th century that valentines cards became popular with the start of the 19th century being the beginning of mass-produced cards for valentine's day. In 1913 Hallmark produced their very first valentines card, marking the end of true romance on Valentines Day. It quickly became the holiday we know it as today with a creation of commercialism and a large range of items deemed 'Acceptable' to give on Valentines Day.

All in all up until 102 years ago Valentines Day was very much so about love, companion, feasts, fertility and religion, I suppose the opinion is now of your own. before 1913 Valentine's day was that of a celebration of love by showing those you love how much you care from handmade cards and gifts along with time together to feast. (we won't mention the wiping with blood and goats hide, maybe 50 Shades Of Gray is perfect for early representation on Valentines day?)


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