The Historic Story of Valentine’s Day

Historically, Valentine’s Day was an ancient Roman pagan ritual to Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that was originally celebrated on February 15. In 496, Pope Gelasius I renamed this pagan festival into a Christian feast on February 14, proclaiming it as St. Valentine’s Day.

Fact is there were at least three Christian saints by that name: A priest in Rome, a bishop in Terni and a third St. Valentine that met his death in Africa. They were all said to have been martyred on February 14. But most scholars firmly believe the one St. Valentine being attributed to this holiday is a priest who attracted the disfavor of Emperor Claudius II at around 270. Now the myth begins. One story states Emperor Claudius II prohibited marriage for young men stating that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine, being a devout Christian priest continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies to the men and soldiers. He was apprehended and was tortured then put to death. Another legend was that when he was captured he tried to convert Emperor Claudius II to Christianity which angered the Emperor and had him imprisoned and transferred to his jailer Asterius who has a blind daughter since birth named Julia. Valentine being a learned man was able to teach Julia about the history of the Roman Empire and about Christianity. Supposedly he was able to perform a miracle and cure Julia of her blindness. Upon seeing this miracle, Asterius his jailer and members of his household were baptized and converted to Christianity. Before he was severely beaten, stoned and executed it was said that he allegedly sent Julia a letter signed ”from your Valentine”. He was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion.

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The tradition of lovers sending valentine’s cards and gifts to one another started from England in the 1850’s and spread to the US and other countries. Exchanging hand-made valentine cards made from lace, cupids, ribbons and hearts were the order of the day. Today Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest commercial successes around the globe when it comes to card-giving, gift-giving, flower-giving and chocolate-giving! Show your partner or loved one how much you love her or him by sending a valentine gift.

Article written by Gilbert Dadia