The Ironic Origins of the Day of Love
According to NPR, it is theorized that Valentine’s Day emerged as a result of the deaths of two men who shared the same name, Valentine. In memoriam, the Catholic Church dedicated a day to celebrate the lives of the two martyrs, and Valentine’s Day was born. The month of February over the years has not only marked the anniversaries of the deaths of the two men but the celebration of a famous Pagan tradition, Lupercalia. This was a festival surrounding an incredible feast taking place from February 13th through 15th, accompanied by acts of violence against the women of their villages, hoping to improve their fertility. This overlap between the two holidays allowed Pope Gelasius I to combine the two traditions in an effort to end Pagan traditions. As a part of these changes, Christians continued the celebrations but removed all nudity and violence to make the day more playful.
Moving forward, Valentine’s Day absorbed the altered traditions of Lupercalia and remained a core aspect of Roman culture. At the same time, the Normans, settlers of northern France, participated in a similar holiday, “Galatin’s Day,” literally meaning “lover of women.” As a result of the similarities between the two names, it is believed that over time the two holidays merged through miscommunication. This marked the official birth of Valentine’s Day as modern society knows and loves.
Gaining popularity from Chaucer and Shakespeare’s writings, the holiday spread through Europe and Britain like wildfire. As the holiday’s notability grew, so did the expectations for new traditions associated with it. Soon, paper cards became a staple of the holiday and were distributed throughout the countries where Valentine’s Day was celebrated. The budding Industrial Revolution aided the growth of the card production giant, Hallmark, in 1913. With the popularization of Valentine’s cards, news of the new holiday finally made its way to the New World where we still celebrate it today.