Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day? The unromantic origins of the day of love

Cherished by some, loathed by others, Valentine’s Day is extensively considered the final word day of tacky, unapologetic romance.

Whereas some could also be vaguely conscious that the event takes its identify from a priest known as Saint Valentine, they is probably not acquainted with the total historical past of Valentine’s Day, which is decidely much less romantic than one could count on.

Valentine of Terni was a Third-Century-priest who ministered to Christians in historic Rome. Numerous accounts exist detailing the occasions that led to him turning into a martyr and subsequently being named a saint by the Catholic Church.


Some of the widely-believed accounts means that Valentine defied Emperor Claudius II of Rome. The Emperor had outlawed younger males getting married, as he thought them to be of extra use on the battlefield than at house.

Some accounts element Valentine’s stark defiance of this regulation, seeing him marry younger {couples} in clandestine ceremonies. This was considered a critical offence within the eyes of the Emperor, and the priest was beheaded on 14 February as a consequence.

Regardless of the emperor’s wrath, the Catholic Church counseled Valentine for uniting {couples} who noticed the Christian religion. Thus, Valentine was formally recognised by the church as a saint after his dying. Saint Valentine has since turn into related to courtly love and the romantic traditions of Valentine’s Day.

Together with this account, some consider that the historical past of Valentine’s Day may additionally be rooted in a pre-ancient Roman competition known as Lupercalia. The competition, which was celebrated yearly by Romans on 15 February, celebrated fertility. Those that took half labored to purify town of evil spirits with the intention to maximise fertility and convey prosperity to their villages.

Luperci from J. Grasset Saint Sauveur Vintage Rome, Bergamo 1825 (Rex Options)

The pagan competition was also referred to as “dies februatus”, which means “day of purification”, which is how the month of February acquired its identify. 

A part of the proceedings noticed the monks of the god Lupercus – the Luperci – sacrifice goats and a canine after which daub their foreheads with the animals’ blood.

These males would then run across the Palatine Hill bare, hanging any ladies who got here close to them with the hides of the animals that they’d sacrificed. The monks believed that hitting ladies with the animal hides would be certain that they’d stay fertile.

Whereas the idea of Lupercalia could differ vastly from our trendy understanding of Valentine’s Day, the 2 observances are carefully related.

The celebrations of Lupercalia got here to an finish across the fifth Century, following objections made in regards to the competition by Pope Gelasius I.

The pope condemned the practises of the pagan competition, describing those that participated in it as “vile and customary, abject and of the bottom order”.

The vacation of St. Valentine’s Day on 14 February was officially declared by the pope in 496 AD, main some to consider that he had successfully changed Lupercalia with the vacation honouring Saint Valentine.

The primary proof of Valentine’s Day having romantic connotations got here within the 14th Century, by means of the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer. “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when each hen cometh there to decide on his mate,” the English poet wrote to honour the engagement of King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia.

William Shakespeare additionally referenced Valentine’s Day in his work, having Ophelia converse of the day in his 17th Century play Hamlet.

Valentine’s Day as we all know it at the moment began to take kind within the 19th Century and early 20th Century, thanks partially to the growth of the economic revolution.

In 1913, Hallmark Playing cards in Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, started mass-producing Valentine’s Day playing cards, sparking the start of the industrial vacation the 14 February has turn into.

A decade later, chocolatier Russell Stover had the innovative idea of promoting candies in heart-shaped bins, encased in satin and black lace.

In 2018, cash saving web site Finder reported that 22 million Brits have been making ready to spend cash on their important others on Valentine’s Day.


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The typical spend for a person collaborating within the love-filled celebrations was £28.45, whereas 16 per cent of the inhabitants said that they deliberate on celebrating the day with out spending a penny.

Click on right here for all the very best Valentine’s Day buys, from flowers to lingerie sets.

The Independent’s Millennial Love group is the best place to discuss to the highs and lows of modern dating and relationships. Join the conversation here.​

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