Where does Valentine’s Day come from?
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
Symbolism has been a very integral part of the way we view both secular and commonly acknowledge images. The trident has often been considered to be the “Devil’s pitchfork,” while in more ancient times it was the depictment of the trident wielded by the Greek mythological god, Poseidon. In recent times, the Feb. 14 holiday known as Valentine’s day, meant to be a symbol of harmony and love, has also been an evolution of a much grimmer original meaning that’s now depicted as anything but such a notion. Valentine’s day, revered as a day to demonstrate one’s love to their significant other. All of this in the name of St. Valentine, but who was this mysterious saint?
The Catholic church as always recognized the different saints whom were name Valentine or Valentinus, and all three of these saints were in fact martyred. Emperor Claudius II, with no reverence for love, decided that single men were less distracted and made the best of soldiers. With his vision in mind, he outlawed marriage for those soldier in the service of the emperor. Unimpressed and outraged by the emperor’s decree, Claudius continued performing marriage ceremonies for the soldiers. His convictions to join those in love ultimately were the cause of Claudius’ decision to have Valentine put to death. According to one legend, Valentine sent the first recorded greeting card to a woman he had fallen in love with while imprisoned, with the salutation “From you Valentine.” His fearless declaration of love in his letters to his beloved – eventually – earn him the acknowledgment and fame as one of the most popular saints of the middle ages.
The origin of Valentine’s Day was, in fact, a pagan holiday. While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. To begin festival celebrations, priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog for purification. Women would be slapped with the freshly harvest goat hides. I imagine if I did such a thing, I’d find myself with a new young lady each and every year! However, in these times, it was welcomed by the significant other as they thought it was sure a gesture that would render them most fertile for the coming year between the next ritualistic measures to come in the following celebration in years to come. Later in the day of the festival, the women would put their names in a hat – as if some twisted game of secret Santa – where men would draw the name of the woman whom would, in many cases, subsequently become their bride. A little over the top, as opposed to picking up a bouquet of flowers and a heart-shaped box of chocolates! The idea of greeting cards was only introduced in the 1900’s after printing presses were efficient enough and more easily distributed than millions of hand-written notes that would have been exchanged centuries before Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
While tradition is one thing, in more modern times, there have been more and more controversies building to whether it is truly a sincere thing to have a holiday revolving around telling a significant other that your love for them burns just as strongly as the infancy stages of your relationship. My personal take is that I don’t need any one singular day to let my love know that I love her. If it isn’t apparent that I love her on a day-to-day basis that has no end in sight, then one day out of the year almost seems like a slap in the face saying that today “I love you,” and let’s talk again next February. If you with one which you truly cannot live without, I believe it to be in your best interest to let that person know such a truth every chance it crosses your mind that you do so. If you only do so out of an obligatory sense of duty on a designated day, then it might be time to revisit your true emotion. If the look you receive and the affection you attain from the one you love is so moving to them and yourself on that one day, why would you not one to feel such a sense of appreciation and significance in their life on a daily basis.
So yes, show the one how you cannot live without them this Valentine’s day if it is in your heart to do so. And if it is in fact in your heart, go the extra mile and assure them of that undying devotion every chance you get, because we truly never know when the words we speak to them on any given day could be the very last words we are allotted to bestow upon them. In the immortal words of a genius of lyric, “love the one you’re with.” And don’t make them wait 364 days in between the times that you let them know it’s and undying and unforgotten notion with each Valentine’s Day that comes and go. A Happy Valentine’s Day to you all. But more importantly, a happy life with the most significant other that you’ve chosen to dedicate your heart and soul to in the all the remaining year’s you should hope to be so lucky to have them by your side through thick and then. And may all your February dates be just as endearing as the other 11 months you are so lucky to have them as a part of your life. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. Love truly does conquer all!
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