Did Hallmark Invent St Valentine’s Day ?
A brief history of Valentine’s Day, its origins and the celebrations associated with it.
From a Pagan to a Christian celebration
Although it can sometimes feel that Hallmark conjured up the whole Valentine Day scenario for the purpose of selling greetings cards, they cannot be held responsible for its origins. The celebration of St Valentine’s Day goes way back in time well before the birth of the Christian Church; indeed, its celebration was created by the early Christian Church as a replacement for a Pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia.
Naked Roman youths
Traditionally celebrated by the ancient Romans on the 15th February, the festival of Lupercalia involved the sacrifice of a goat for fertility and a dog for purity at a sacred cave – a place where Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were thought to have been nursed by the she-wolf, Lupa. The Lupercalia celebrations involved Roman youths dipping goats’ hides in blood and then running naked through the streets slapping crop fields and the hands of women who believed it would increase their fertility. Compared with this, the giving of a bouquet of red roses and a bunch of chocolates in the 21st century is an altogether different way of celebrating the elements of love and romance!
Pope Gelasius changes the date
When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD, many pagans converted to Christianity but continued their celebration of Lupercalia until 496 AD when Pope Gelasius, changed the celebration of Lupercalia on the 15th February to the celebration of St. Valentine, on the 14th.
But who was St Valentine?
So that explains why we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day on the 14th February. Figuring out who exactly St Valentine was becomes a little more tricky, since history shows at least two possible contenders: one a St Valentine from the town of Terni in central Italy, who was martyred and later became a saint, the other another Valentine, who was killed during the Christian persecutions of the 3rd century.
Linking to romantic love ?
An explanation of why the name St Valentine became linked with the celebration of romantic love can be found in a 15th century tome called the Nuremberg Chronicle. This ancient document refers to a priest who was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples during a time of Christian persecution and eventually killed for trying to convert the Emperor Claudius to Christianity.
However, whether this priest was called Valentine and whether he became a saint, we shall never know.
So there you have it: naked Roman youths; priests martyred for the love of Christianity; a defiant priest marrying Christian lovers – a mix of pagan passion and Christian martyrdom.
So make Valentine’s day a special day to remember !
With so much historical drama underlying this imminent day of love and romance, the least you can do is make Valentine’s Day a special time for your loved one. Whether you do that with a greetings card from Hallmark; a beautiful bouquet of roses; a proposal and an expensive diamond ring – or replicate the festival of Lupercalia and run naked through your local neighbourhood, I’ll leave entirely up to you.
See our page on Valentine gifts for women ….. or Valentine’s Day gifts for men.
We even have Cocktails for you to help you celebrate.