Tomorrow, couples will be celebrating the holiday designed for romance, love, and sex. Valentine’s Day. The holiday that generates $15 billion in flower sales was not always the romantic holiday we have grown to know thanks to Hallmark and Hollywood. As opposed to other holidays, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that has more than one origin story and each one of those origin stories involve either death or torture.
The Executed Priest
Valentine was a priest during the height of the Roman Empire in the third century. At the time, Rome was lead by Emperor Claudius II. Claudius II decreed that single men were better at being soldiers than they were at being husbands. Due to the size of the Roman Empire at the time, Claudius II understood the need for a large military force and that young men made better soldiers than older men. A law was established that forbade young men to marry. Valentine saw this law as being completely unjust. If a young man wanted to marry then he should be free to do so. Valentine made the decision to defy the Roman emperor and perform marriage ceremonies in secret. Claudius II soon discovered what the priest was doing and ordered Valentine be executed. The martyred priest later became a saint in the Catholic Church. We celebrate Saint Valentine on February 14 in order to remember the sacrifice that he made for love.
Christians were not always welcome in Rome like they are today. The next origin story deals with a man named Valentine who ended up in prison for helping the Christians in Rome.
The Prisoner In Love
Once again, Emperor Claudius II and Valentine begin this story. Valentine, a Christian, was living in Rome at a time when Christians were persecuted by the Romans. Valentine was captured and according to legend, was interrogated personally by Claudius II. For some reason, Claudius II was impressed by the things that Valentine had done and attempted to get him to convert to Rome’s religion at the time. Paganism. At the same time, Valentine was attempting to show Claudius II the ways of Christianity and was trying to convert the emperor. Seeing that Valentine was never going to convert from his Christian faith, the emperor sent him to prison to await execution. While in prison, Valentine performed the miracle that would later get him sainthood. A man named Asterius was the jailer of Valentine and his daughter Julia was blind. Sometime before his execution, Valentine cured Julia of her blindness which led to her entire family converting to Christianity.
The First Valentine’s Card
The above legend remains the same except for the fact that Julia was blind. While Valentine was in prison waiting to be executed, he and Julia fell in love. The night before he was executed, he sent a love letter to Julia and signed it “Your Valentine.” It is believed that the reason we ask to be someone’s Valentine and sign Valentine’s cards with “your Valentine” is due to this origin story.
The Pagan Festival
Like Halloween and Christmas, Valentine’s Day is believed to be rooted from the ancient Pagan holiday of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was celebrated every year on February 15. During this holiday, a lottery was held in which the name of a woman was drawn by a man. The woman would then become the sexual property of that man until the following Lupercalia holiday. This tradition lost favor when Pope Gelasius I was the leader of the Christian faith. Gelasius decided to change the holiday so that the name drawn in the lottery was that of a Catholic saint. The person who drew the name of the saint would have to live for the rest of the year in a way that would honor the legacy of the saint. Instead of celebrating the Roman God Lupercus, Valentine was the one who was honored. Men would keep a bit of the old tradition alive by trying to win the hearts of women during the Valentine’s celebration. That tradition is still alive today.
Which Valentine’s Day origin do you believe?
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