Why is February 14 considered the day of love (Valentine's Day)?
- What are the origins of Valentine's Day - and why have its romantic themes persisted to this day?
- Where does the word "Valentine" come from?
As it turns out, no one actually knows the true story behind this historic holiday, nor have any of the theories been fully proven. Even historians dispute the exact traditions from which today's holiday draws its inspiration.
But here we are, sharing as much as we know on the subject, including the dark origins of Valentine's Day and its interesting history.
Surprisingly, its story - although not confirmed - is actually quite dark and even a little gory.
Strange traditions, pagan rituals and terrible executions mark the beginning of this holiday.
Where does the word Valentine come from?
Why is Valentine’s day celebrated on Feb 14 and who is this mysterious Valentine? According to many studies, it is possible that the holiday full of hearts is based on a combination of two men.
After all, there were two men named Valentine executed on February 14 (albeit in different years) by Emperor Claudius II. It is believed that the Catholic Church may have established Valentine's Day to honor these men they considered martyrs.
What's more, it's possible that one of these men, Saint Valentine of Terni, secretly helped Roman soldiers find love despite the emperor's ban, making him a champion of love in some eyes.
However, others believe that Valentine's Day was actually established by Pope Gelasius I to replace the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia. The bawdy holiday falls at the same time and involves a pagan ritual with naked men beating women with whips doused in animal blood, which they believed promoted fertility. This flogging is a strange tradition where men randomly choose women's names and decide who they will stay with until the end of the festival or be with her for life.
However, the late Jack B. Oruch, a professor of English at the University of Kansas, had a different theory. Through research, he found that the poet Geoffrey Chaucer first associated love with Valentine in the 14th century The Parliament of Follies and The Complaint of Mars.
Oruch therefore claims that Chaucer invented Valentine's Day as we know it today. (At the time of Chaucer's writing, February 14 was also considered the first day of spring in Britain, as it was the start of the birds' mating season - perfectly appropriate for a celebration of love.)
What role does Cupid play?
It's not all about Valentine's Day!
Cupid - that winged boy often seen on Valentine's Day cards and holidays - is another symbol of this love-filled holiday, and it's easy to see why. In Roman mythology, Cupid was the son of Venus, which is the goddess of love and also of beauty. He is known for shooting arrows at gods and humans alike, causing them to instantly fall in love with each other. While it's unclear exactly when Cupid was brought into the Valentine story, it's certainly clear why.
In the present days, many people can’t wait for 14th of February to arrive. On this day, lovers send valentines in heart-shaped form, cards, and give each other flowers. Valentine's Day is a much-loved holiday in originally Catholic countries, but nowadays it is gaining popularity all over the world.