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The History Behind the Holiday: Valentine’s Day

Madelaine Vrotney, Staff Writer

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Valentine’s Day is the holiday that is most notorious for being related to cheesy cards and chocolates. While that might be what Valentine’s day is like in the twenty-first century it started out quite different.

Valentine’s Day is the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, with women purchasing nearly 85% of all Valentines.”

Way back in ancient Roman times, Valentine’s day was a celebration about early spring, fertility, the ancestors, and love. The festival was called Lupercalia and the ancient priests would sacrifice a goat and a dog. After the sacrifice,  they would have people whip the women with the blood-soaked rags with the thought that it would cure them of their infertility. 

But if the holiday started as a creepy Roman festival, why do we call it “Valentine’s day”?

Who is Valentine?

Well, we don’t know exactly which Saint Valentine the day is referring to since there are at least three of them who were all martyred.

One legend says that Valentine was a priest that served during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II thought that single men make better soldiers he outlawed marriage for young men to get more soldiers. Valentine realized the injustice and defied Claudius by continuing to perform marriage ceremonies.

When his actions were discovered, Valentine was killed.

Another theory suggests that Valentine might have been killed for trying to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons.

Some legends say that Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting card himself after he fell for a young girl who was most likely the jailer’s daughter. He signed the letter “From your Valentine.”

The truth behind these legends is unclear. Many find him to be a sympathetic and romantic hero. And because of his, he was one of the most popular saints in England and France by the middle ages.

In the twenty-first century, people celebrate Valentine’s day by sending out cards with cheesy puns on them.

Valentine’s day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

In Great Britain, it was common for friends and lovers of all social class to give each other small tokens of their love and by 1900, print cards started replacing the handwritten letters.

Americans started giving out valentines in the early 1700s. A. Howland started selling the first mass-produced valentines in the 1840s.  Howland produced creations with real lace and ribbons. An estimated 1 billion Valentines are sent each year.

Even though the history of this holiday is super creepy and weird, Valentine’s day now is all about love and family.

 

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The History Behind the Holiday: Valentine’s Day