February 14th is Valentine’s Day, the day on which we celebrate and explore love in all its many ways.
How a day for lovers came to be celebrated during the middle of February is an interesting story.
Though no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday modern St. Valentine’s Day celebrations are said to have been derived from both ancient Christian and Roman tradition.
From the 13-15th of February, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia.
This Lupercian Festival was held in honour of the God of Fertility and during the festivities young men would get to choose their mate.
But the rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed for and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs and Lupercalia was no exception.
In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14th .
He proclaimed February 14th to be the feast day in honour of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the third century. It is this St. Valentine whom the modern Valentine’s Day honours.
There were at least three early Christian saints by the name of Valentine but the one that scholars believe to be the true St. Valentine is a priest who lived around 270 AD in Rome and attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II who ruled during this time.
When Claudius became Emperor he feared that men would refuse their duty to fight because they would not want to leave their wives behind so he outlawed all marriages.
Young couples still fell in love though and still wished to marry and they took these desires to the Catholic Bishop Valentine who, understanding love, began to secretly marry couples.
When Claudius found out, he had Valentine arrested and ordered put to death. While waiting in jail, Valentine began exchanging letters with the jailer’s daughter and soon had fallen in love with her.
The day he was to be beheaded, he wrote her one last note and signed it: “˜From Your Valentine’.