‘St. Valentine’ Not Whole Story Behind Valentine’s Day

Elizabeth Bolin, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Valentine’s Day. Perhaps the most loved (or hated) day of the year is rapidly approaching us. But what are the origins of Valentine’s Day? Believe it or not “St. Valentine” is not the whole story.

The holiday has its roots embedded in the Roman festival of “Lupercalia,” a festival that celebrates the coming of spring and fertility. Although the origins of the festival are vague and uncertain, it is assumed that its name comes from lupus or “wolf” in Latin.

The name suggests a connection to the mythical she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus. The fertility aspect most likely connects to the god Faunus (also known as the Greek God Dionysus). The Dionysian festival also included lottering off women to men.

Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day. The original “St. Valentine” is thought to be a priest martyred by emperor Claudius II Gothicus for attempting to help Christians escape imprisonment.

The phrase “From your Valentine” is thought to have originated when he signed a letter to a young girl who visited him while he was imprisoned. Another legend details St. Valentine secretly marrying couples to spare the men from war.

Valentine’s Day has evolved a lot since the time of Lupercalia. Commercialization has transformed the holiday into the candy-filled romanticism we know today.

The familiar “heart shape” symbol was popularized by the Church as a symbol of love when Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque had a vision of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” arranged in this shape made of thorns.

In the middle of the 18th century, friends and lovers began to exchange small tokens of affection and by 1900 cards popularized the tradition.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, France and Australia. An estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making it the second largest card-sending holiday of the year (Christmas being first).

This year when you are shopping for chocolates or roses or writing a heartfelt note to someone special, give a quick thought to the ancient Romans.