St. Valentine's Day is almost completely shrouded in legends and mystery. It's actually origins could come from multiple places. Firstly, connections with the actual saints, for yes, there were numerous Valentines, are unknown. When romance began being associated, which Valentine was which had been blurred. One legend is that one of the Saint Valentines was living as a priest in 3rd century Rome. When the emperor Claudius II banned marriage for soldiers, believing that love would make them less capable, Valentine performed secret marriages for young couples in love. Another legend is that Valentine was put in prison by the Romans for trying to free Christians from jail, but he fell in love with the jailer's daughter, and wrote her letters signed as 'from your Valentine', a common phrase nowadays.
Another theory for the beginning of Valentine's Day is much like Halloween and the gaelic pagan festival Samhain. The Ancient Roman festival Lupercalia which celebrated fertility and the god of fertility Faunus, as well as Romulus and Remus and their she-wolf mother, named lupa, whence the name came from, came in the ides of what is now February, and the Christians felt the need to eliminate this holiday. It was replaced with Saint Valentine's Day at approximately the same time. The association of romance with Valentines was probably further enhanced in the Middle Ages, when it was believed that the fourteenth of February was the beginning of the breeding season for birds.
The holiday officially became popular in the 17th century and 18th, while the 19th probably started the commercial aspect. It was also during this time that pagan aspects crawled back into the holiday, such as the iconic Cupid, Roman God of love.
St. Valentine's Day, despite its murky origins, happens every year, and most people love it. It is a chance to really feel loved, but on the other hand, a lot of people feel lonely. But because of the extremely commercial aspect, perhaps people do not feel as lonely as when it is Christmas time.
Valentine's is celebrated in most of the world, especially in the Anglophone countries, such as the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and others such as France, most of Europe, and Mexico. Japan, China, and Korea do celebrate Valentines, with some variations, and only do so because of western influence. While in most western countries, the man, traditionally, first gives the gift to the woman, and the woman gives one back in return, in Japan and and Korea, the woman gives chocolate, more as a love confession, or depending on the amount of chocolate, to a friend, and the man or person receiving has the chance to either reply or thank with or without chocolate on another later date known as White Day. Taiwan does the exact opposite. In Japan, the romantic date idea is reserved for Christmas Eve.
So now that you know a bit more about St. Valentine's Day, did you realise that you had completely forgotten? A lot of men will, and if you have a chance, take a gander at people frantically running around looking for the last box of chocolates or the last bouquet of roses available in the country.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Photo from here.