In the United States alone, over 190 million people celebrate Valentine’s day yearly. These people contribute significantly to the retail economy. Last year, retailers generated $20.7 billion from valentine sales alone. This figure is estimated to reach $27.5 billion this year. Celebrating love on the 14th of February has become a tradition across cultures. In different parts of the world, people mark this day with outings and gifts for their loved ones. Even if different people celebrate valentine’s day in unique ways, there are some constants attached to the 14th of February. The colors of love are red and white, and the theme is always love. While it is often celebrated by lovers, family members can also spend the 14th of February together in love. Have you ever wondered how this February 14th became reserved as the day of love?
The Origin of Valentine’s Day: How It All Began
First of all, Valentine’s Day was named after St. Valentine. There are many different stories regarding his role in history and how the 14th of February became dedicated to him. However, one thing these stories have in common is that he lived in the 3rd century and the 14 of February is a day set aside by to remember him one way or the other. Who was St. Valentine? He was a Roman clergy who advocated against the ban of marriage that was put in place by Emperor Claudius II. The Emperor made marriage illegal because he claimed the emotional attachment of marriage made men bad soldiers.
St. Valentine saw this law as cruel and unfair so he started organizing secret marriages for those who were in love. He fought for love in this version of the story. When the Emperor found out what Valentine was doing, he arrested him and sentenced him to death. Organizing secret marriages made Valentine a hero of love in the eyes of others at the time. Everyone was disheartened by his sentence. During the days he spent in prison before his execution, he met and fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. On the day he was killed he wrote a romantic letter to her and it was signed;
“From your Valentine”.
To make things clear, before the death of St. Valentine, people celebrated something similar in the middle of February. However, this celebration wasn’t called Valentine’s Day until later on. It was a Roman tradition known as Lupercalia. This celebration was done to welcome everyone to Spring. It involved a lot of pagan rituals. During Lupercalia, boys and girls were matched and had to spend the day together. Sometimes, people who have been together for a while ended up getting married during the celebration. In a bid to make Lupercalia a Christian celebration, the church renamed Valentine’s Day in remembrance of St Valentine and his fight for love. Eventually, Valentine’s Day became a global celebration. Even people who aren’t Christians celebrate February 14th of their day of love but is it a day of love?
Gory Details No One Tells You About February 14th
As stated above, there are several stories about St. Valentine and the origin of Valentine’s day. The history narrated above is one of many. In that story, Valentine was a hero and an advocate of love. Now, it’s time to see another perspective of St. Valentine’s story. Several historians believe that Valentine was not a hero of love. They claim that the hero story was a cover for the gory origin of Valentine’s Day. This version of history claims that Valentine’s Day started as a remembrance of the persecution and decapitation of two Christian martyrs who lived in the third century. Both of them were named St. Valentinus and St. Valentine.
According to the account by Bollandists, Emperor Gothicus, the Roman Emperor who reigned between 269-270 A.D, promoted the persecution and execution of Christians. During his reign, he ordered the execution of several clergies called St. Valentine. However, there were two notable executions of people named St. Valentine. The account from Bollandists is more reliable than others because they were a team of scholars who dedicated their time to recording details about the lives of scholars. They kept extensive details from 1643 to 1940 when the body was dissolved.
The first record shows that a priest from Rome called St. Valentinus was arrested by Emperor Gothicus and held in the custody of the aristocrat called Asterius for a while. During his captivity with Asterius, Valentinus had freedom of speech. He took advantage of this and started preaching the gospel telling the pagans about Christ and how he would lead them out of the darkness. To put his notion to the test, Asterius asked St. Valentinus to heal his blind foster daughter. If the priest could heal the girl, Asterius promised to convert to Christianity. After saying a prayer while placing his hands on her eyes, the girl was cured of blindness.
After the girl was healed, Asterius kept to his side of the bargain. He and all the members of his house converted and were baptized as Christians. On hearing what had happened Emperor Gothicus ordered the arrest and execution of St Valentinus, the aristocrat, and his entire family. However, only Valentinus was killed. He was killed by beheading and his body was buried on the Via Flaminia. Due to his martyrdom, a chapel was built over his burial ground. He was not a patron of love, he was a patron of Christianity. Some other interpretations of this version of the story claim that Valentinus was romantically involved with the blind girl but there is no record of that written by the Bollandists.
The second record by the Bollandists was about St. Valentine who was a bishop of Terni in Italy. His story is also similar to the story of St Valentinus. Both men were beheaded by the order of Emperor Gothicus for converting high ranking pagans to Christianity. Also, after their deaths, both men were buried in Via Flaminia with a chapel built over their burial sites. In both cases, there was no record of either men being romantic. They were simply clergymen who died as martyrs on the 14th of February. The date was marked and celebrated by pagans, not by Christians.
Does The Origin Of Valentine’s Day Matter?
In the years that followed, people have cared less about the origin of Valentine’s Day and focused more on what they want it to be. Some see it as an opportunity to share gifts and remind their partners about how important they are to them. Some see it as a day of love to give to the less privileged in society. In medieval Europe, Christian churches saw St. Valentine as a martyr and many claimed to have parts of his remains under their buildings. Some people believe that his body parts and relics offered miraculous benefits to lovers. However, there is no evidence to support this claim.
The bottom line is that you can have fun with your loved ones on the 14th of February irrespective of the origin. There are many ways to enjoy this day whether you believe in the origin stories or not. The truth is that only those who witnessed what happened to St Valentine in the third century can give a fairly accurate record. So, you should not let this bother you.
There are many ways to have fun that day. You can dress up for dinner, make a card for your loved one, buy a box of chocolate and flowers for your lover, bake a love-shaped care for your loved ones, spend the day on a group road trip with other friends, travel abroad to a vacation destination for a week, or just stay at home and eat chocolate if you have no one to hang out with. Self-love is also love; the most important form of love. In fact, you don’t need to wait for Valentine’s Day to express love for yourself or others. Love doesn’t need to be celebrated only one day in an entire year. So, forget about the gory origins of Valentine’s Day and focus on loving and being loved every day of the year including February 14th.