The month of romance is here. After a week of love-filled festivities, the big day will be celebrated on 14 February. Valentine’s Day holds great significance for those in love and people express their affection for their significant other on this day. While most of us celebrate this day with fancy dinner dates, flowers and gifts, let us take a look at the origin of this day.
It is believed that Valentine’s Day has its origin in ancient Rome, when the feast of Lupercalia was celebrated from 13 February to 15 February. A goat and a dog were sacrificed by men on these days and women were whipped with the hides of the sacrificed animals as it was believed that this will make them fertile.
During the festival, a matchmaking lottery would also be carried out. Men would draw names of women from a jar and would couple up with that woman for the duration of the festival, or even longer.
While the feast of Lupercalia was a commonly ritual, it was in the 3rd century A.D. when Valentine's Day got its name. Emperor Claudius II had ordered Saint Valentine, a priest who helped Christian couples in getting married, to be executed. Emperor Claudius II was against the marriage of single men and ordered that Saint Valentine should be beheaded. The execution happened on 14 February. It is also said that while St. Valentine was imprisoned, he took care of the jailor’s blind daughter and even wrote her a card which said ‘from your Valentine’.
In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius expelled the pagan rituals of Lupercalia and combined it with St. Valentine’s Day. Once the pagan rituals were gone, St. Valentine’s Day celebrations grew more romantic in nature. The festival became all about love and intimacy. Popular poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare also began to popularise this day by writing sweet things about love and passion.
Self-made cards were exchanged as a token of love and appreciation. The tradition made its way into the 19th century and the industrial revolution made it possible to produce a number of cards for the occasion. Since then, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in affectionate ways by exchanging cards, gifts and flowers to express love to a beloved.