Understanding the History of Valentine’s Day

Kira Budge
The Paw Print

Today, February 14, marks that holiday so ubiquitously loved and hated—Valentine’s Day. Whatever your personal opinion on the holiday, a huge amount of tradition has gone into the creation of Valentine’s Day as it is today. So whether you’re spending today with a loved one, stalking someone you wish was a loved one, or bunkering out in your room, read ahead for some facts about the holiday.
The exact start of Valentine’s Day is unsure. There are a couple of long-past traditions said to have gone into it. The first hails from Ancient Rome, where, on February 13 and 14, marriageable people participated in a ritual called Lupercalia, where men would tap woman with goat whips to make them fertile. Lupercalia was later outlawed by the Catholic Church, which then created the more commonly known tradition going into Valentine’s Day.
Valentine was, in fact, the name of quite a number of martyrs celebrated in many Christian churches, and any of them could pertain to this holiday. Legends about a St. Valentine sending love letters between young couples or performing marriages from prison are entirely unconfirmed. As far as can be seen, St. Valentine actually had nothing to do with romantic love at all. It was only through elaboration and story-telling that he became a part of the holiday, which came into effect more as we know it around the Middle Ages.
At this time, two things happened. First, a High Court of Love was established in Paris on the celebratory day of one of the St. Valentines, to deal with crimes of love. This may have created the connection between Valentine and romance, which grew as youth at the time began sending love notes to each other as a tradition surrounding the day we now know as Valentine’s Day. This continued for some time, as noted in poetry and letters around the time.
Then, in the Victorian Age, a resurgence occurred, making the holiday vastly popular. Handmade valentines, poetry, and candies became fare to sell as people grew more and more interested in expressing their love on this particular day. As the holiday expanded and became better known, production of valentines turned into mass-production—basically, Hallmark. By the 19th century, Valentine’s Day had essentially become what it is now—admittedly commercial, but a commonly accepted holiday focused entirely on love.
Valentine’s Day is now celebrated in various forms worldwide during the month of February, with today being the central date. In America today, a couple of other names with different connotations are also associated with the holiday. The most popular is probably Single’s Awareness Day, for those who are single and/or protesting the holiday. A good amount of you are probably celebrating this today. One tradition here is to wear either green or black, as opposites to the standard red/pink/white of Valentine’s Day. Another moniker for February 14 is V-Day, which, rather than being a catchy abbreviation, actually represents today as a day of awareness of violence, primarily sexual, towards women.
With that information in hand, it’s your turn to go out and seize the day, however you desire, and a happy Valentine’s/Single’s Awareness/V-Day!

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