February is a month for romance and love, where flowers, candies, and cards are exchanged. But why do we do this? Why do we celebrate Valentine's Day?
This history of St. Valentine's Day and it's patron saint remains a mystery today. There are several different theories and St. Valentine's Day as we know it today has roots in both Christian and ancient Roman traditions.
Today, the Catholic church recognizes three martyred saints named Valentine or Valentinus. One legend is that Valentine was a Catholic priest serving during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and children. Therefore, he outlawed marriage for all young men, preserving his crop of soldiers. Valentine saw the injustice in this and secretly continued to perform marriages for young lovers. When his actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
According to another legend, Valentine sent the first 'Valentine' greeting himself. It is believe that while imprisoned, Valentine fell in love with his jailor's daughter, who visited him throughout his confinement. Before his death on February 14th, it is said that he wrote a letter to her, which he signed 'from your Valentine'. This expression is still in use today.
February 14th was one day before the Roman feast of Lupercalia, a pagan love festival. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius changed Lupercalia from the 15th to the 14th to stop the pagan celebration. The church knew that there was nothing wrong with the celebration of love, but the pagan elements were insults to God. Lupercalia was done away with, but it's love factor left it's mark on St. Valentine's Day. St. Valentine had become known as the patron of lovers.
The tradition of giving cards, according to one theory, also had to do with the Roman festival of Lupercalia. It is said that they would put the names of the girl's into a box and let each boy draw them out. A tradition along similar lines began in the 14th century, where couples were chosen for a day by drawing. Couples then sent each other 'Valentine's'. By the 1700's, pre-printed Valentine's Day cards began appearing.
People also believe that birds began mating on February 14th, thus the association of lovebirds with St. Valentine.
While there are several legends and the true history of the day is unclear, all of the legends show an extremely romantic figure. Celebrate Valentine's Day, this special day for lovers, and be sure to express that love to your sweetheart.
Now that you know where Valentine's Day originated, click here for some unique Valentine's Day ideas.