Origin of Valentine”s Day

It is largely accepted that the 14th of February is a day to express your affection. The origin of Valentine”s Day has been traced back to the ancient Roman Empire.

It may surprise you to know that Valentine”s Day began in the Roman Empire as a celebration held in honour of Juno, the goddess of women and marriage. It also marked the eve of Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus. On Lupercalia eve, Roman girls would write their names on slips of paper and place them inside earthen jars. A young Roman boy would then draw out one slip of paper from the jars, and the girl whose name he drew would be his partner for the duration of the festival. Sometimes, these pairings ended in marriage.

With the advent of Christianity, Pope Gelasius sought to do away with this pagan practice by replacing the girls” names with that of saints. Boys and girls would draw the saints” names and have to emulate that particular saint for the rest of year. Naturally, this was unpopular.

The Church also had to replace the pagan god Faunus with a more appropriate personality. They decided a martyr, Valentine, would become the patron saint of love. Instead of Lupercalia, the occasion would henceforth be known as Valentine”s Day. There were actually many martyrs who were named Valentine, but the stories of only two of them are known to us today. Even these are anecdotal, casting the origin of Valentine”s Day in a doubtful light.

Valentine was a Christian priest who persisted in marrying young couples in 270 AD even though Emperor Claudius II decreed it illegal. The latter believed bachelors made better soldiers who would serve to extend his empire even further abroad. When Valentine”s clandestine activities were discovered, he was arrested. Strangely, the emperor didn”t execute him immediately. Rather, he tried to convert Valentine to paganism but failed. When Valentine tried to convert the emperor to Christianity, the emperor decreed that he should be executed.

The saint became friends with the jailor”s blind daughter while awaiting his execution. Before he was executed, he gave the girl the gift of sight. He was also said to have given her a note signed “from your Valentine” which would have made it the world”s first Valentine card.

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