Regardless of whether you love it or loath it, Valentine’s Day is once again almost upon us
Women pose for a selfie under heart-shaped balloons (Photo: DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Whether you love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day comes around every year and without fail you will see shops stocking love heart shaped cards, balloons and chocolates.
While Valentine’s Day has become a day to express love and romance through gifts, the history behind the day goes far beyond supermarkets trying to sell roses and cheesy cards.
This is everything you need to know.
When is Valentine’s Day – and what is it?
Valentine’s Day takes place annually on 14 February, and today we know it as a day for celebrating love and affection.
It’s traditional nowadays to express your love for someone through the use of Valentine’s cards, gifts like chocolates and flowers.
Valentine’s cards first appeared in the 1500s and by the late 1700s they were being commercially printed.
Other symbols commonly seen during Valentine’s Day include that of Cupid, the god of desire and affection in classic mythology, hearts and heart shaped items and doves.
Who was Saint Valentine?
Valentine is said to have been a priest or bishop in Rome who was alive during the third century after Christ. Allegedly, he was jailed by the Roman emperor Claudius II for deceit and unwillingness, after defying orders to stop performing Christmas marriages.
The emperor decided that single men made for better soldiers than those who were married with a wife and children, and therefore decided to outlaw marriage for all young men.
Valentine felt that this ruling was unjust, and deified Claudius by performing marriage ceremonies for young lovers in secret.
Valentine is also said to have been guilty of helping Christians that were being persecuted. Claudius II ruled against Christian teaching as he did not want anyone to be worshipped other than himself.
Legend says that Valentine wrote letters to Claudius’ daughter, and miraculously rid her of blindness. He also managed to befriend Claudius – but when he attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity, he was sentenced to death.
Before his execution on 14 February, Valentine wrote one final letter to the daughter of Claudius, signing it “from your valentine”.
Valentine was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate in Rome before eventually being buried at a Christian cemetery.
When did we start celebrating Valentine’s Day?
It’s believed by historians that the first Valentine’s Day was celebrated in 496 AD, when Pope Gelasius declared 14 February to be a commemoration of St Valentine.
It’s thought that Valentine’s Day originated from a Roman festival called Lupercalia, which was held in mid-February at the start of springtime.
Over time, however, the church wanted to change the festival into a Christian celebration, and so Pope Gelasius put an end to pagan celebrations of the Feast of Lupercalia and instead declared 14 February as Valentine’s Day.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that St Valentine would become the patron saint of love in England and France, and it’s often thought that connection came from his defiance of Emperor Claudius.
It was in the 14th century, Valentine’s Day evolved into a celebration of romance after the day became associated with the lovebirds in early spring.
As well as love, Saint Valentine is the patron saint of Teri, a city in the southern area of Umbria in central Italy, epileptics and beekeepers.
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