Valentine’s Day happens every year on 14 February. It is often celebrated amongst lovers but also celebrated amongst family and friends. However, have you ever wondered about the actual history of this iconic event? Here are some of the things to know about the history of Valentine’s Day.
The history of Valentine’s Day
As with most historical information, it can be hard to separate facts from legends. There is no one theory on how Valentine’s Day came to be, although there are a few details that are commonly agreed upon. Many sources agree that Valentines Day was celebrated since the third century, the period 200 to 300 AD when the Roman Empire ruled the world.
Valentine’s Day traditions have evolved a lot over the years. The day’s romantic connotations didn’t begin until much later. Some suggest that it is connected to the belief from the Middle Ages that birds’ mating season begins on February 14.
How Valentines Day got its name
There were apparently three early Saints named “Valentine”, all of whom were martyred by Romans. However, any firsthand accounts were probably destroyed in the early fourth century.
Despite the unfortunate and common theme of the execution of Christians named Valentine, the most famous account is one of a third-century martyr imprisoned for secretly marrying Christian couples and helping persecuted believers.
This was supposedly sparked when Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When discovered, Valentine was reportedly ordered to be executed on Feb. 14, 289 A.D.
Other theories about Valentine’s Day
While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial, some others claim that the date was chosen due to the Christian church’s effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
In 18th century England, the day became the occasion in which couples expressed their emotions of love by giving flowers, sweet treats, and greeting cards to their partners. Today, Valentine’s Day is associated with symbols such as flowers, hearts, candy, cards and chocolates.
Other variations of Valentines Day
Let’s be honest, no one likes to be left out of major events, so we almost always find our own way to celebrate it.
The day before, on 13 February, certain friends may celebrate Galentine’s Day. This term was actually first seen in February 2010 during an episode of the hit comedy, Parks and Recreation. In the episode, the character Leslie Knope describes the day to be one where her “lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies.” This concept took off and is still popular to this day.
On February 15, it is also sometimes known as Single Awareness Day. Despite it getting a bad rep it insinuates that people don’t like to be reminded that they are single, more people are pushing for the stance that being single is something to be celebrated. Evidently, singles have twice the fun as they will get celebrate their independence again on 11 November, National Singles Day.
At the end of it, be it celebrating romantic love, the love of family and friends or self-love, like most holidays, we get to define what it means to us. Happy Valentine’s Day to those celebrating. If you’re looking for ideas on how to make it more meaningful, read our article here.