Thursday, January 28, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

When I started doing my research for this article, I was surprised to find out romance is not in the history of Valentine's Day. The background for Valentine's Day is the pagan festival Lupercalia celebrated by the Romans. Lupercalia was a fertility festival which celebrated Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture and celebrated the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

There are three different legends involving a St. Valentine. The first legend, involves a priest named Valentine who served in Rome during the third century. Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldier so he made it illegal for soldiers to marry. Valentine continued to marry soldiers, defying Claudius II. Emperor Claudius II found out about Valentine's actions and had the priest beheaded.

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Emperor Claudius II

The second legend has Emperor Claudius II encouraging men to take on several wives. In this scenario, Valentine was cutting out parchment hearts to remind the men of their vows and God's love. This may be the origin of hearts on Valentine's Day. It is believed that this Valentine wore an amethyst ring in the shape of a cupid. This may be the link for amethyst as the birthstone for February.

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The third legend has Valentine killed for trying to help jailed Christians escape prison. According to this legend, Valentine performed a miracle by healing a jailer's daughter while Valentine was in prison. Before Valentine was put to death, he wrote the daughter a note and signed it "from your Valentine," an expression we still use today. By the Middle Ages, St. Valentine became one of the most popular saints.

At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day. By then, the pagan festival of Lupercalia was outlawed. By the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that St. Valentine's Day was the beginning of the mating season for birds hence, the frequent appearance of birds in valentines.

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Pope Gelasius
Written valentines did not appear until approximately 1400. Charles,the Duke of Orleans is credited with writing the first valentine to his wife, Bonnie, who lived in France.  The Duke of Orleans was imprisoned in England for 25 years during which he wrote over 60 love poems to Bonnie. The oldest love letter in the English language was written by Margery Brews to her fiance John Paston in 1477. She declared her love to him, and promised to wait for him, if he declared his undying love for her. She must have received a positive response because the couple did marry. Written valentines became all the rage in the 1800s. Popularity soared in the 1900s and the practice is still followed today. Here I thought it was just a Hallmark holiday!

Barbara Moore


Jean Sandell said...


Jennifer said...

That was very informative and quite romantic! Thank-you!!

capitalcitycrafts said...

Thanks Val! Who knew , right?

Beadsme said...


Cher said...

Interesting and informative... who knew? lol

Thanks for the feature :)

Michele said...

Very interesting!!!

SendingLoveGallery said...

good info! birds on Valentines, too- didn't know they were symbolic~

Brooke said...

I enjoy learning the origins of our holidays and traditions, thanks for sharing this one!

Mollie Ann said...

What a wonderful history lesson! Thank you!

jemsbyjb said...

Love to read about the history behind so many holidays. This was great.

LoveStoneArts said...

I loves me some history!! Thanks for illuminating Valentines Day, Barb.