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History of Valentine’s Day

by Erich Martin

Feb 4, 2019

valentines day © Oleg Doroshin | Dreamstime.com

Trends / History

Depending on who you are and how you think about it, Valentine’s Day is either a day of anticipation and excitement, or frustration and annoyance. No matter what you think of the day, the traditions behind the holiday have an interesting history.

 

The celebration itself comes from Roman pre-Christian traditions, namely, the Festival of Lupercalia. The festival celebrated the coming of spring and concluded with the lottery pairing off of men and women. The mid-February festival was replaced with Valentine’s Day at the end of the fifth century by Pope Gelasius I, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

The naming behind the holiday is a little more controversial. It is generally accepted the name of the holiday comes from a Christian priest, but the specific priest and circumstances surrounding his martyrdom are up for debate.

 

The commonly accepted story tells of a priest , Valentine, martyred shortly before 300 CE. According to legend, Valentine signed a letter to the jailer’s daughter as “from your Valentine.” Some legends also suggest Valentine cured that same daughter of blindness.

 

Formal cards, like those used among school children today, started appearing in the 1500s. The first of these to appear in the United States appeared in the 1800s. The holiday is still celebrated widely in the United States and several European countries, including Britain and France.

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