This is a special day for anyone who is in love. But have you ever wondered what the origins of this day are? In this guide, I want to give a Saint Valentines Day history lesson explaining the beginnings of this day.
Who is your Valentine’s?
We will give our wife or husband, girlfriend or boyfriend, or maybe that crush of ours a special gift to show them that we love and care for them.
But how did this special day begin?
And why is it celebrated by lovers in many countries all over the world?
It’s Valentine’s, not Valentines!
Before I begin to discuss the origin of this day of love I must correct. It is “Valentine’s Day” and not “Valentines Day“.
So, with that fact in mind let us learn what this day is all about.
Saint Valentine’s Day – February 14th
Saint Dwynwen’s Day – January 25th (Welsh patron saint of lovers)
Dia dos Namorados (Lover’s Day) – June 12th (Brazilian day for lovers)
Credit: The Story of Liberty
When Did Saint Valentine’s Day Start?
Saint Valentine’s Day is also called the Feast of Saint Valentine. It is an annual holiday that is celebrated on February 14th worldwide.
To be correct this is a feast day that honors at least three different saints either named Valentine or Valentinus.
The story of Saint Valentine!
The most popular story connected to this day belongs to Saint Valentine who was a priest that lived in Rome during the 3rd Century.
Saint Valentine is said to have been imprisoned because he performed weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry, and also for ministering to Christians.
Both of these acts were outlawed for over two hundred years until 313.
The reason that marriage was forbidden was that it was believed that single men made better soldiers, rather than those that had wives and families.
Valentine though disagreed with this injustice by Emperor Claudius II and married these young lovers in secret.
His actions though were discovered and Claudius ordered for Valentine to be put to death.
It is believed that this date in February is celebrated as this is the date of death or burial in 270AD.
Other stories concerning Valentine
Some stories suggest that he was killed whilst attempting to help Christians escape the harsh Roman prisons.
One of the more popular stories suggests that during his imprisonment he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. The daughter would visit him during his confinement and he subsequently fell in love with her.
Before his execution, he wrote a letter to her and signed it “Your Valentine“, or “From Your Valentine“.
Despite different possible events they all emphasize that Valentine was a sympathetic hero and a romantic figure.
Thanks to his reputation he was regarded as one of the most popular saints in the United Kingdom and France.
A Pagan Festival?
As with any origin story, there is always controversy or different interpretations. February 14th is celebrated as it may be the death or burial of Valentine.
Although this date may have been chosen by the Christian church as they wished to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.
The Festival of Faunus!
The Lupercalia celebration was a fertility festival that was dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, and also to two Roman founders Remus and Romulus.
During this festival, the members of the Luperci, who were an order of Roman priests would congregate at a sacred cave.
This cave is said to have been where the two infant founders were cared for by a she-wolf or Lupa.
A goat would then be sacrificed and their hides would be made into strips. These strips were then dipped in their sacrificial blood and then somewhat unpleasantly gently slapped against women of the village, and also the crop fields.
The women though did not fear this as they believed it would make them more fertile.
Then later on in the day, the women would each place their name into an urn. Subsequently, the bachelors of the village would choose a name and thus be paired with a woman.
Most of these pairings would result in marriage.
Declaring February 14th Valentine’s Day!
The Lupercalia celebration survived until the end of the 5th Century. By that time Pope Gelasius declared February 14th Saint Valentine’s Day.
It wasn’t until much later though that this date was associated with love.
Back in the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that this date marked the beginning of the birds’ mating season.
And so further added to the story that this is a day of romance.
Are There Any Other Days For Lovers?
There are other two special days for lovers to mention as well. These are Saint Dwynwen’s Day for the Welsh that is celebrated on January 25th, and Dia dos Namorados for Brazilian lovers on June 12th.
The Welsh patron saint of lovers, Dynwen, was believed to have been the daughter of King Brychan Brycheiniog.
She lived in north Wales in the 5th Century. Her tale though is a sad one.
A Day for the Welsh!
She loved a young man named Maelon, but he rejected her advances. Unfortunately, he drinks a potion that was given to her by an angel.
He then subsequently turns into ice. Dwynwen is given three wishes to free him, but in doing so she must remain unmarried.
After Maelon is freed she lives the rest of her life in solitude on the small island of Ynys Llanddwyn on the coast of North Wales.
The Welsh do observe this special saint’s day as well as Valentine’s Day.
A Day for Brazilians!
Dia dos Namorados is translated as “Lover’s Day”, “Day of the Enamored”, or “Boyfriends / Girlfriends Day”.
This day precedes Saint Anthony’s Day, a saint who died on June 13th, 1231.
He was recognized for blessing young couples with happy and prosperous marriages.
This day for Brazilians is quite similar to Saint Valentine’s Day for the western world, as they will exchange romantic gifts such as chocolates and flowers.
Brazilians though do not celebrate Valentine’s Day as this date falls closely to their Brazilian Carnival.
What To Do On Saint Valentine’s Day?
The Middle Ages was even a time that was popular for exchanging Valentine’s greetings. One of the earliest known valentines that still exists today was a poem that was written by the Duke of Orleans back in 1415.
He wrote this poem to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in England.
Valentine’s, a western celebration of love!
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the western world in countries such as the UK, France, the US, Australia, and Canada, among others.
This event became popular sometime in the 17th Century.
By the mid-1700s small tokens of love were exchanged, as well as handwritten notes. Later in 1900 printed cards would replace these handwritten notes.
These ready-made cards were an easy way for people to show their affection, rather than handwriting their notes.
Showing one’s feelings was discouraged during this time.
The increasing popularity of Valentine’s Day!
As postage was cheap this saw an increasing number of greetings being sent on this day.
Valentine’s Day was also celebrated in the early 1700s.
Sometime in the 1840s cards were mass-produced by Esther A Howland were sold. These cards were pictured with hearts, cupids, and flowers.
They were also trimmed with lace and ribbon. Due to the production of these cards, Howland is known as the “Mother of the Valentine“.
Today it is estimated that 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year. As a result, it has become the second most popular occasion to send cards.
What Else Can You Do To Show Your Love?
Besides sending cards you may also buy chocolates or flowers, which are very popular items to send to your loved ones.
Jewelry is also a popular gift to purchase and give to your love, as well as hampers.
You may also want to plan a romantic evening accompanied with champagne just for the two of you. Spending the night away or the weekend at a luxury hotel is also very popular.
If you are yet to pop the question then why not propose to your love on this day?
Marriage proposals are extremely popular on February 14th and some people go to extreme lengths to show their love and pop the question.
Even though there is some confusion as to the origin of Saint Valentine’s Day it is though known for showing affection for your loved one.
You can show your love as I have mentioned in several ways.
What do you do for your loved one on this special day?
I would love to know.
My Final Thoughts
Tracing my family tree roots has been an exciting adventure for me. Not only have I discovered many new branches of my tree but also fascinating things about them.
One thing though that has struck me and is still in my head today is how did my ancestors meet?
And on another note, if they had not made that connection then there would be no ‘me’.
Many factors came to be that resulted in me being here today. Sorry to sound philosophical, but it does make you think, doesn’t it?
Find your ancestor’s love story
But anyways I just wanted to recommend to you that you should pursue the love story of your ancestors.
It’s an interesting tale that you may not have considered uncovering while tracing your roots.
You could explore your ancestors’ engagement, wedding, anniversary, even the birth of their children maybe.
One resource that I would suggest for you to check out is Newspapers.com, where you can find this information within the pages of a historical newspaper.
If you haven’t considered this particular resource before then I suggest that you do so.
You could uncover stories about your ancestors that have not been recorded elsewhere.
Why not check out Gena Philibert-Ortega’s post For Valentine’s Day: Researching Your Ancestor’s Love Story.
In this inspirational post, Gena discusses marriages licenses and engagements, the wedding, and milestone anniversaries as all events that you can uncover within the pages of a newspaper.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed this Saint Valentines Day history lesson, (or rather Saint Valentine’s Day). If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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