The History of Valentine's Day and Why We Celebrate It

The History of Valentine's Day and Why We Celebrate It

What is Valentine's Day? Saint Valentine's Day is an annual festival celebrating romantic love, friendship and admiration. Every year on February 14, throughout the United States and elsewhere in the world, lovers exchange candy, flowers and gifts and spend special time together to honor their love for each other.


How did Valentine’s Day start?

According to The New York Times and, the festival's origins may stem from the ancient pagan festival of Lupercalia, predating Christianity. Lupercalia celebrates fertility and may include a ceremony in which a man and woman are paired by choosing names from jars. In ancient Greece, winter festivals were held for the marriage of the god Zeus and the goddess Hera.


But Valentine's Day is named after Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome in the 3rd century. During Valentine's time, many Romans were converting to Christianity, but the emperor Claudius II was a pagan, and he made strict laws about what Christians could do. Claudius believed that Roman soldiers should devote themselves entirely to Rome, so passed a law preventing them from marrying. Saint Valentine began marrying these soldiers in secret Christian ceremonies, which was the beginning of his belief in the importance of love.


How did Valentine's Day develop?

It wasn't until more than 200 years later that February 14 was declared Saint Valentine's Day. By this time, Rome had become a Christian state, and the Catholic Church was determined to eradicate any remaining paganism. The pagan birth ceremony was held every February, and the Pope abolished this festival and declared February 14 as St. Valentine's Day, thus establishing the festival on the Catholic calendar of saints.


Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Valentine's Day eventually transformed into a holiday of romantic love, possibly thanks to the romantic English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer lived in the Middle Ages, a time of courtly love when widespread, romantic statements of devotion—poems, songs, paintings—celebrated partnership. By the end of the 15th century, the word "Valentine" was being used to describe lovers in the poems and songs of the time, and in the 18th century a book called "A Young Writer's Valentine" was published in England.


By the mid-18th century, it was common for friends and lovers to exchange small gifts and notes on Valentine's Day. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution helped make printed Valentine's Day cards the hot new thing, according to NPR. By the mid-19th century, mass-produced paper valentines were being created. Finally, in 1913, the Hallmark Card Company of Kansas City, Missouri began mass producing Valentine's Day cards, and the world has never been the same since.


What are some fun things to do for Valentine's Day in Contemporary Times?

While Valentine's Day is celebrated in most countries, different cultures have developed their own traditions for the holiday. You can celebrate this day of love any way you want, Valentine's Day is most often associated with romantic love and millions of Valentine's Day cards are exchanged every year. Give your loved one fresh flowers or a single red rose as a gift, allowing couples to spend special time together.


Marriage proposals are also popular on Valentine's Day, often chosen as the perfect day to express love and commitment. Some proposals are very creative, like after climbing to the top of a mountain, or posting a message on a billboard. No matter the method, a proposal on Valentine's Day is usually romantic and memorable.

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