Every year on February 14 people around the world exchange tokens of love and admiration to the special ones in their lives – i.e. their valentine. The word “valentine” is associated with a Christian martyr from the 5th century, with his day of observation (Valentine’s Day) having origins to the Roman festival Lupercalia.
Here a three fast facts surrounding the day of romance – commonly referred to as Valentine’s Day:
1. There are over a dozen Saint Valentines, however Valentine’s Day is associated with Saint Valentine of Rome, who was declared a martyr. While there are many stories surrounding Saint Valentine, the most common (and known) center on a roman priest who secretly married young couples. The Emperor Claudius II believe that young and unwed men made the best soldiers, so he forbade them to be married. Valentine, a priest at the time, believed young couples who are in love had the right to marry, went against the emperor’s orders and performed wedding ceremonies. On February 14, 269 AD, Emperor Claudius II ordered the execution of Saint Valentine and had him beheaded. Through time, excavations have found relics of Saint Valentine of Rome, which can now be found in various churches around the world (e.g. Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome houses his skull).
2. It is believed that the Christian church declared February 14 the feast day of Saint Valentine to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia (e.g. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 Saint Valentine’s Day). The Roman festival of Lupercalia is one of fertility, held on February 15, in which individuals would gather together for the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, as well as the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
3. Throughout history the day became associated with love and romance. During the Middle Ages, February 14 was believed to be the start of birds’ mating, a notion believed around England and France. In addition, the first oldest known “valentine” dates back to 1415, written by Charles, Duke of Orleans. While imprisoned, he wrote a poem to his wife, which is now preserved in the British Library in London, England. The exchange of tokens and the growing popularity of Valentine’s Day, has now made the day, next to Christmas, the day where people send the most greeting cards.
More info on Saint Valentine: