Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 every year. It is a day filled with hearts, cupids, and special valentines cards. People have been using the same Valentine’s Day symbols for so long that many people do not know the meanings behind them.
For Catholics, February 14 is the Feast of Saint Valentine (also known as Saint Valentine of Rome). He is the patron saint of love, young people, and happy marriages. In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar because very little is known about him, and the legends surrounding him are inconsistent. It is believed that he was martyred on or around February 14.
One of the legends says that Saint Valentine secretly married couples so the husbands would not have to go to war. This might be why people associate Valentine’s Day with love.
Another legend says that he was imprisoned for refusing to sacrifice to pagan gods. The jailer’s daughter was blind, and Saint Valentine is said to have cured her. On the day of his execution, the legend says he left her a card that said “Your Valentine”. It is possible that this legend is what inspired people to send cards to their loved ones on Saint Valentine’s Day.
Romans celebrated Lupercalia between February 13 and 15. It was a celebration of fertility. Romans would sacrifice a goat and a dog, and then whip women with the bloody hides. This act was believed to make women more fertile, so one could assume that at least some of the women consented to this part of Lupercalia. In the fifth century, Pope Gelasius I outlawed Lupercalia and officially declared February 14 to be Saint Valentine’s Day.
Today, people celebrate Valentine’s Day with heart shaped boxes of candy and cards that have hearts on them. There is more than one theory of why the heart shape got connected with Valentine’s Day. The one that seems the most obvious involves a now-extinct plant called siliphium. Its seedpods were sort of heart shaped. In the seventh century city-state of Cyrene in North Africa, the siliphium plant was used as a form of birth control.
The sending of anonymous, extremely decorative, hand made, heart shaped valentine cards originated in Victorian England. Eventually, card companies figured out how to mass produce Valentine’s Day cards for people to purchase and mail to their beloved.
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