Valentine's Day History

History of Valentines Day and St. Valentine
Each year, on February 14, people celebrate Valentine's Day by showing their loved ones how much they care for them. This holiday dates back as far as 496 A.D. with the Festival of Lupercalia, which was originally celebrated on February 15 as a fertility right. Romans honored the gods Lupercus, Faunus, and the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. As a tradition on this day, the names of girls would be placed on slips of paper and placed in a jar, where in turn, men would draw a name and would be partners with whom he chose for the remainder of the festival; however, many of these relationships lasted longer, and some even married.

During the 5th century A.D., Pope Gelasius wanted to do away with the Lupercalia ritual, stating that it was immoral and pagan. He then created another celebration on a date close to that of Lupercalia, on February 14, which honored a saint known for his love and devotion, that saint being St. Valentine. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius officially abandoned the festival of Lupercalia in order to pay tribute to St. Valentine, but decided to keep the lottery of names because the Romans extremely enjoyed it. However, he chose to replace the names on the slips of paper with those of saints rather than girls. When men selected a saint's name from the jar, they were expected to live a life similar to that saint for the next year. Despite the Church's efforts, men and women continued to search for their own partners, but the admiration for St. Valentine continued to grow.

There are many legends on the origins of St. Valentine's Day and who Valentine actually was, but there is one that seems to overshadow the rest. Valentine, the priest, lived in Rome during the 3rd century under Emperor Claudius II. It is believed that Claudius needed soldiers for war and considered single men better suited for the job as opposed to those who were married and in a rush to get home to their families. Because of this, Claudius banned marriages and engagements, but Valentine refused to give up his Christian beliefs and married couples in secrecy. Claudius eventually became aware of Valentine's actions and commanded that he be put to death. Valentine was stoned and beheaded and died on February 14, about 270 A.D.

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