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The Origin of Valentine’s Day

With less than a month away from this romantic day when love, chocolate and sex are among the most familiar items we associate with the 14th have you ever thought about the origin of Valentine’s Day?

The deep roots of Valentine’s day go back to Ancient Roman times.  A fertility celebration, “Lupercalia” commemorated annually on the 15th of February. The Lupercalia festival was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. The Luperci, an sect of Roman priests would gather at a sacred cave where the celebration would take place.  Residing in this secret location where Romulus and Remus who were believed to be the founders of Ancient Rome. The infants were taken care of by a she-wolf also known was a lupa.

The Luperci would offer a sacrifice of a goat which symbolized fertility and a dog that represented purification. This is where it gets really weird! Strips of the goat’s hide would be dipped in the sacrificial blood and taken to the public streets. Women of the village would be gently slapped with the hides to promote fertility. The women gladly welcomed this strange act, they believed it would make them fertile for the entire year. After this fertile blessing men and women were paired up for the upcoming year in hopes of having a child. The union usually ended in a marriage and a family, now that’s romance!

Once Christianity entered the scene the Lupercalia festival was deemed “un-Christian” and was but to a stop by the end of the 5th century, which is when Pope Gelasius officially declared that February the 14th would now be known as St. Valentine’s Day.

Who is St. Valentine

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

There are other renditions of the story that suggest Valentine was killed for attempting to help Christians escape the harsh conditions of Roman prisons. While he was rescuing the Christians from the terrible Romans it was said that he fell in love with one of the daughters of an army sergeant. During his captivity, before he was put to death he sent a greeting to his beloved.  The letter was signed “From Your Valentine” an expression that is still in use today.

During the middle ages St. Valentine had a reputation of being a romantic-heroic figure which made him one of the most loved saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial. There are claims that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.

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