Many people celebrate Valentine’s Day in the United States, Canada, and around the world. But do many of those people know how Valentine’s Day came to be celebrated as it is today? Who knows where this tradition of sending romantic, funny or poetic cards to each other comes from? And why did we pick February 14 as the date?
Many schoolchildren hold classroom parties where they put their cards into a box and someone distributes all the cards to the proper persons. Older children, like high school kids, hold dances at their schools and pass out candy baskets and cards with cupids on them to their valentines or sweethearts.
Adults do the same things, just on a more intimate scale. For some reason or another, winged fat children and hearts with arrows through them are the chosen images of the special occasion.
According to the “World Book Encyclopedia,” 1982 edition, St. Valentine’s Day may have one or more beginnings, traceable to such times, cultures, and people as the early Roman Empire, Christian saints named, “Valentine,” or the old English belief that birds choose their mates on this particular date. The ancient Romans celebrated a festival called Lupercalia on February 15 to have protection from wolves. Young men would whip people with the skins of animals. The women thought that being whipped would make them fertile.
Some say that there were actually more than one St. Valentines in the early Christian church. At least one Valentine was executed on February 14, around the year 269 AD. One of the stories says that he was imprisoned by the Romans for not worshipping their gods.
Since the children that he was friends with missed him badly, they sent him love letters through the cell bars in the window. That might explain the tradition of love letters a little better. It was Pope Gelasius, in 496 AD, that named the romantic holiday.
The tradition of giving cards and/or presents to one’s romantic crush has been around awhile and has undergone many different changes. The underlying message is, will be and always has been (at least since the times of the early Romans) one of romantic fancying and unconditional love.
Now if only that message would stay with humanity throughout the year, that would be something to celebrate.