How To Valentine Day Purpose

Aww… February 14. The day when love is in the air and life is good. You’ve obviously heard of it before – and probably celebrated it at least once or twice – but do you actually know what it’s all about? Luckily for you, we have all the answers.

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The day of hearts and flowers is recognised throughout the world but did you know that it was one man that started the whole event?  Proof that the male species are not as incapable of romance as they’d like us to believe, the story of Saint Valentine (or Saint Valentinus as he was known back then) is filled with passion and desire.

According to legend, Saint Valentine was a priest in Ancient Rome (circa 3rd Century) who married loved-up couples in secret when Emperor Claudius II imposed a ban on matrimony – according to him, unmarried men made better soldiers (boo!). A true romantic, Saint Valentine chose love not war and carried out secret marriages. Unfortunately, he was discovered and punished for his treachery.
Saint Valentine’s legacy

Imprisoned and sentenced to death, Saint Valentine is claimed to have fallen victim of Cupid’s arrow himself by becoming besotted with his jailor’s daughter. It’s not known if she returned his affections (we like to think she did) but legend states he sent her a letter declaring his love shortly before his death – signing it with a familiar marker we still use today: from your valentine.

The saint’s death is claimed to have occurred in February to give birth to the tradition of Valentine’s Day but there is some argument over this (we’ll come to that in a minute). It is also worth remembering that while this is the story of the most common figure identified as Saint Valentine, the Catholic Church actually recognises three different saints by the same name. Each was martyred during their life, which could explain how the name became so well known, and other legends associated with the figures include the fact that Saint Valentine wore a purple amethyst ring with an image of Cupid – the Roman God of Love – engraved upon it. The symbols are now associated with love but amethyst is also February’s birth stone (cool right?)

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Before Saint Valentine

Saint Valentine may have given us the story we needed to transform this special day into a global holiday, but what happened before his legacy was created. As well as the celebration of Lupercalia, many other rituals were dedicated to romantic love. These were all associated with the Roman God of Love: Cupid (Eros in Greek) whose name literally translates to “desire”. Portrayed as a small child carrying a bow and arrow that were capable of making people fall in love with one another, Cupid has been an important part of Valentine’s Day celebrations for centuries and is still depicted in poetry and gifts today.

Why February 14?

As mentioned above, there are many who believe Saint Valentine met his maker in February to explain the timing of this celebration – but there are some other theories. One particularly strong argument claims that rather than commemorating the romantic Saint Valentine, February 14 was actually chosen as Valentine’s Day because it coincided with a pagan celebration – Lupercalia.

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This was the festival of fertility celebrated on 15 February and dedicated to the Roman God of Agriculture: Faunus. Just as people claim Christmas is celebrated in December to Christianise the pagan Winter Solstice celebration, there are those who think Valentine’s Day does the same to Lupercalia.
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Interestingly, the celebration of Lupercalia ended with the names of single Roman women being placed in an urn for bachelors to pick out. This led to a number of marriages but while the similarities between this ritual and today’s Valentine’s Day traditions are clear, there are differences.

A big one is the fact Lupercalia celebrations saw local women scramble to be touched by sacrificial offerings. These were strips of skin dipped in blood from a goat (for fertility) and dog (for purification) and were believed to increase fertility.

We’d much rather receive chocolates and flowers on Valentine’s Day to be honest.


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