Every year, people all over the world celebrate “Valentine’s Day” or the Feast of Saint Valentine – and many believe it to be originally brought about purely as a celebration of St Valentine. While it is true that the modern Valentine’s Day is named after the saint, there may be more to the story. Read on to learn more about the history of valentine’s day…
The modern day known St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14, and added to later martyrologies.
The day is thought to be first associated with romantic love in the time of Geoffrey Chaucer in the middle ages, when the tradition of “courtly love” flourished. In 18th-century England, the day quickly evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectioneries, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”).
Throughout Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children, in order to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine’s Malady). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards, which has been adopted by a few cities and towns around the world with “Love connections”, most notably, Loveland, CO and Loveland, OH.
The truth is, people have been celebrating around this time of year for much longer. The Feast of St. Valentine may well have settled around a pre-Roman festival of Lupercalia (13th – 15th of February).
Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, an earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gives the month of February (Februarius) its name.The name Lupercalia was believed in antiquity to evince some connection with the Ancient Greek festival of the Arcadian Lykaia (from Ancient Greek: lukos, “wolf”, Latin lupus) and the worship of Lycaean Pan, assumed to be a Greek equivalent to Faunus, as instituted by Evander.
In Roman mythology, Lupercus is a god sometimes identified with the Roman god Faunus, who is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Pan. Lupercus is the god of shepherds. His festival, celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of his temple on February 15, was called the Lupercalia. His priests wore goatskins. The historian Justin mentions an image of “the Lycaean god, whom the Greeks call Pan and the Romans Lupercus,” nude save for the girdle of goatskin, which stood in the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. There, on the Ides of February (in February the ides is the 13th), a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and salt mealcakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins were burnt.
However Valentine’s Day originates, it as certainly become a tradition around Loveland, Colorado – the so-called “Sweetheart City”. Loveland has an entire cottage industry based around the whole valentine “season” – from early January through to the 14th of February, and into the weekend beyond (when the day itself is mid-week) – we are celebrating the ‘Season of Love’ – it sure beats focusing on the cold we might be experiencing.. 🙂