The History of Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love has many different meanings in every single language but there is a universal traditional day when people express their inner feelings for each other, either love or friendship. Valentine's Day was coined as the exchange day for those with these naturally feelings for others, throughout all cultures.

The origins of Valentine's day are traced back to the Medieval era associated with the Catholic Church feast day, but love and fertility nexus with this particular date falling on February 14 comes from the ancient times of Greece, when the Athens calendar included a period between mid January and mid February called the Gamelion, a month dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera, hence associated with love and fertility.

Lupercalia, the festival of Lupercus, the God of Fertility, was the equivalent in the Roman Empire and taking place on February 15, time of purification rituals. Lupercus was represented as a half-naked man dressed in goatskins. His priests sacrificed goats to the god on this day and after drinking wine, they ran through the Roman streets holding pieces of goat and touching anyone in their run including women in the belief to receive an easy childbirth.

There is no written reference about how Saint Valentine became the romantic love protector, in fact the Catholic martyrologies mention three different Saint Valentines under the date of February 14; a priest in Rome, a bishop of Interamna, and a martyr in the Roman province of Africa, making even more obscure the origins of this celebration.

However, in the 5th century the feast of Saint Valentine was officially decreed to be on February 14 by Pope Gelasius I during the year 496. In a later assumption, this could be just an attempt to supersede pagan holidays like Lupercalia celebrated in Rome until then. Apart from this historical setting, the rest is just legends.

Throughout time, the gift of blooming wild flowers was a common practice to demonstrate romantic love or affection between partners on Valentine's Day. Daisy flowers became a sort of "yes-no" love divination. Today, daisies have their own meaning of innocence and loyal love, associated with the fifth wedding anniversary.

During the 19th century, roses took their place having different meanings according to their color or numbers of flowers given on Valentine's Day. It was during the Victorian century when relics exhumed from the Roman catacombs of Saint Hippolytus were identified with Saint Valentine.

In 1836, the relics were donated by Pope Gregory XVI to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, but once again, the obscure origins of Valentines (or Valentinus) and his relics are alleged to lie at the reliquary of Roquemaure in France and in Sankt Stephans Kirche in Vienna.

Instead of an uncertain Saint image, the 19th century associated the figure of the winged Cupid to Saint Valentine's Day, along with and heart-shaped outline cards and paper cuts to be sent with flowers on this day, tradition remains today when a wide array of flowers can be chosen online and delivered anywhere just by placing your order via the internet.


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