As February 14 approaches the aisles of grocery stores begin to fill with everything pink and red. Chocolate hearts line the aisles as shoppers roam the store looking for love in commercialized products.
February 1 originated as a religious holiday but has since developed into a nonsecular holiday. It has been commercialized with stores setting up elaborate displays of teddy bears, chocolates and flowers.
February 14 is the feast day of St. Valentine. However, there are multiple Valentines recognized in the Catholic Church.
One of the famous stories is that Valentine was a priest who would marry young couples when the emperor of Rome, Claudius II,would banned the marriage of young soldiers in order to make them better soldiers. Valentine was seen as a hero to most, but once he was discovered, he was put to death by the emperor.
Another story comes from when Valentine was attempting to free Christians from Roman prisons. According to history.com, “An imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl—possibly his jailor’s daughter—who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression that is still in use today.”
With all the popular legends of St. Valentine, it is no wonder why Valentine is one of the most popular saints especially in France and England.
Besides the Christianized version of Valentines, the pagans celebrated Lupercalia, which is a fertility festival that celebrates Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. Lupercalia is held on February 15 or the ides of February. It is believed to be the first February celebration before Valentine’s Day.
“To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa,” according to history.com.
After the gathering, women would place their name in the urn in which the bachelors would draw names, and most of the time they would get married to that woman. Due to the rise of Christianity in the fourth and fifth century, Lupercalia, being a pagan holiday, was outlawed and dissipated in the fifth century.
The pope at the time, Pope Gelasius, announced that February 14 would beSt. Valentine’s Day in honor of the saint’s death and would be known as a day of celebrating love.
“During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance,” states history.com.
Throughout history, there are records of famous writers writing valentine greeting as a part of the custom. It turned from being a pagan festival into a day of celebrating the saints and writers who displayed kindness.
Another famous figure on Valentine’s Day is cupid. Cupid is a version of the Greek god of love, eros. Cupid appears as a baby cherub with its bow and arrow. With his arrows he can manipulate people’s emotions by increasing feelings of love.
“It wasn’t until the Hellenistic period that he began to be portrayed as the mischievous, chubby child he’d become on Valentine’s Day cards,” according to history.com.
Now, people send their friends or loved one’s cards and maybe chocolates to show their appreciation or affection. It has become a holiday not only for couples, but also for people spreading joy to one another.