Luscious chocolate boxes, bushes of red roses and shiny bijous, right after the new year celebrations February the 14th is fast approaching. Right, St Valentine’s Day. The day of lovers for the most romantic ones and the marketing triumph for the rest of us. But what do we really know about this tradition? Why do we systematically celebrate romance on this Saint’s day? Read through the article to get some historical insights and explore the roots of this global festivity, within both the Catholic and Pagan traditions.
St Valentine’s Day: a Catholic point of view (or maybe two)
St Valentine’s legend follows mysterious pathways, shredded in both the Catholic and Pagan traditions. According to the Catholic Church, the real reason why this martyr has been linked to the celebration of love is not unilateral indeed, as more than one tale has been passed on generation to generation.
Apparently, two are the homonymous Saints contending for the paternity of this celebration. As sacred history tells, one of the two Valentine was a priest serving the Roman Church while Emperor Claudius II held the power. Apparently, at that time it was believed that unmarried men performed better as soldiers hence the sovran’s decision to ban marriage among young men. Priest Valentine was so moved by the injustice that he decided to celebrate weddings in complete secret. But, as it can easily be imagined, nothing could be kept hidden from the Empire’s big eye, so Valentine’s conduct was discovered and he was quickly put to death.
As mentioned early, there is a second Valentine the Catholic tradition makes reference to. This time our man was found guilty of facilitating prisoners escaping Roman prisons and for that, he had been imprisoned on his turn. Throughout his confinement he was visited by his jailor’s daughter, a gracious lady who stole Valentine’s heart. The man used to address words of love and tenderness to this lady, signing his letters with “from your Valentine”. And, boom! It is quite simple to spot the roots of the tradition as we observe it today.
St Valentine’s Day: a Pagan tradition explained
The Pagan side of the story is not entirely religion-free, as the legend says that Valentine’s Day was instituted by the Roman Church into an attempt to “Christianise” the Pagan festivity of Lupercalia. The aforementioned celebration was a fertility ritual devoted to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus. It is told that the sinister ceremony was held in the same cave where Romulus and Remus where fed by the she-wolf: a priest would sacrifice a goat and a dog as symbol of purification, for then touching women with the goats’ blood as means of good fertility.
Lupercalia eventually ceased being a Christian celebration at the end of the 5th century, when February 14th was devoted to St Valentine. The notorious date had to wait a bit longer, specifically the 14th century, before becoming correlated with romantic love. The association had apparently been made with early spring lovebirds.
Overtime, St Valentine’s Day has become more and more independent from Christianity. Today, it is considered one of the most lucrative festivities all over the world. According to Finder, £1.37 billions will be spent only in the UK for Valentine’s day in 2022. For buying what? Well, mostly greeting cards, a tradition that doesn’t seem to set since its rise in the early 19th century. Chocolate is the ultimate king of this feast and cannot be missed in any attempt to surprise anyone’s partner. Romantic getaways are very famous, too. Just pack your bag and book your romance dream for an unforgettable weekend in the name of love.