Valentine’s Day: A history of the day of love

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Amelia Bergeron

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Valentine’s Day is a holiday filled with love. Today, the holiday is characterized by chocolate, roses, and cards, but its true history is more complex.

The holiday originates from the Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated in mid-February, that honors fertility rituals and the pairing of women to men. Women touched the hides of a goat and dog in hopes of bringing them better fertility in the coming year. Around the end of the fifth century, Pope Gelasius I named the holiday after St. Valentine. But it did not honor romance until much later—the 14th century.

Although the day is called Valentine’s Day, it is still a mystery whom the holiday is truly named after, since there were several different saints named Valentine who were all martyred. Some say that St. Valentine continued to marry young couples in secret after Emperor Claudius II outlawed the marriage of young men because he thought single men made better soldiers. Another legend states that an imprisoned Valentine sent a love letter to a young girl who visited him during his confinement. It is rumored that he signed the letter “from your Valentine.”

St. Valentine became increasingly popular in England and France, leading to the delivery of messages starting in the Middle Ages. The holiday became widely celebrated in the 17th century, and in the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced Valentine in the United States.

In order to celebrate this year, students plan on buying a gift and spending time with their significant others. For junior Nora Webb, her boyfriend’s food preferences change up the common tradition of giving chocolate. “I would buy something, not chocolate, because he doesn’t like chocolate, but maybe candy or something.”

For Wilson students, the holiday represents love, but some also see it as consumerist. “I think it’s nice, but it’s unnecessary because it’s just to make money,” sophomore Charlotte Tompkins said.

Freshman Ellie Bijeau understands the holiday, but also thinks it is gratuitous. “I get it. It makes sense why it exists, because for forever people have had relationships as humans,” she said. “But I just think the way we celebrate it is kind of dumb because you should celebrate your significant other every day.”

Although Valentine’s Day has become more commercially focused, it still acknowledges the connection between people in a variety of ways, ranging from going on a date to gifting a box of chocolates and a bouquet. It’s always important for people to recognize those who they care for, and they might even learn something while doing so.