Every year on February 14, people all over the world express their love for their partner by exchanging chocolates, flowers
and gifts, all in the name of St. Valentine.
So where did Valentine’s Day come from and why has it become such a big celebration?
The special day is widely associated with the ancient origins of the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Held in Rome in mid-February after the month was added to the Roman calendar, the festival celebrated the coming of spring and was meant to ward off evil spirits, purify the city and increase the women’s health and fertility.
Rumour has it that it was during this time that the festival became associated with ‘love’, as women were paired off with the men they were to marry in a form of matchmaking lottery - essentially drawing names out of a hat, or urn at that time.
However, the festive traditions from Lupercalia were not romantic in the same sense of the word today, as the festival
often involved animal sacrifices and brutal acts such as symbolic whippings of women, once believed to increase fertility. While the ancient Roman festival may be the reason behind our February 14 celebration of love, the term Valentine’s Day is also linked to not one, but two martyred Valentine’s.
The first, a priest who, according to legend, was martyred by emperor Claudius II Gothicus after he was found to have signed
a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter; and the second, Saint Valentine of Terni, of whom accounts suggest secretly married Roman soldiers at a time when emperor Claudius II Gothicus banned them from getting married to ensure they would remain fierce and free of familial obligations. Legend has it that the two Valentine’s were honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day on February 14 because it was the day they were both martyred.
Fast forward to this day and age, and Valentine’s Day is now globally recognised as a cultural and commercial celebration of
romance and love, although thankfully it has left behind the traditions of Lupercalia.