Do you know about the history of Valentine’s Day?

Jake Schachter and Ava Lucarelli , Contributing Writers

When you think of Valentine’s Day, you probably think about chocolate, pink, love, and cards, but did you know that there is a darker history behind the holiday?  Valentine’s Day is named after St. Valentine who defied the Roman emperor Claudius II by arranging marriages during the third century C.E.  It was this desire to marry people that caused his eventual demise. 

St. Valentine was a brave person who used his power as a priest to help the Romans.   By marrying people so that the husbands wouldn’t have to be conscripted into the army, he saved lives because those who served in the army were likely to be killed.  Unfortunately, St.Valentine was caught marrying a couple, jailed, and later sentenced to death. 

While he was in jail, St.Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter.  On Feb. 14, the day he was executed, he wrote the jailer’s daughter a love letter and signed it “From your Valentine.”  This is why we celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 and call people “Valentines.”

“I never knew that the saying “from your Valentine” was from ancient Rome!  So exciting!” said freshman Lauren Young.

Valentine’s Day is an ancient celebration that dates back to 496 C.E.  It started with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which took place on Feb. 13-15 and celebrated love and fertility.  During the festival, young men drew women’s names from a jar, and if by the end of the festival the two people were still together, they would get married.  This tradition may have influenced what people do on Valentine’s Day today.  Later in the fifth century C.E., Pope Gelasius renamed the holiday to what we now know it as, St. Valentine’s Day.

After William Shakespeare referred to Valentine’s Day in his work, the holiday became much more popular and focused on romance.  In the Middle Ages, paper cards became a staple for the holiday because St. Valentine used to hand out paper hearts to his fellow Christians to remind them of their love for God. 

“I never knew Valentine’s Day changed so much,” said freshman Isabella Yardeni.

Over the years there have developed many different traditions from all over the world surrounding Valentine’s Day.  In Brazil, Valentine’s Day is not even celebrated on Feb. 14 because of Carnival.  On June 12, Brazilians celebrate Dia dos Namorados (Lover’s Day).  The tradition of giving cards and flowers remains the same, but instead of celebrating St. Valentine, they honor St. Anthony.  In the Philippines, mass weddings occur on Feb. 14, which is why it is one of the most common wedding anniversaries in the country.  The weddings are usually free and include flowers and sometimes even cake. 

For some people, the expectations around Valentine’s Day lead to great amounts of stress. 

“In my opinion, it’s mostly a cash grab for companies, and if there was any deeper meaning, it’s been lost.  I also feel like it’s another way for society to put pressure on people to be and act a certain way,” said freshman Nayia Tornarites.