via Wikimedia Commons
Celebrated annually on February 14, Valentine’s Day is a national sensation, sweeping the country with boxes of chocolate and love letters. It has taken thousands of years to develop, opening up room for theory and hypothesis. However, one thing is for sure; everything surrounding Valentine’s Day revolves around Saint Valentine.
The most popular theory states that Saint Valentine was a priest who performed marriages during the Roman Empire. Once the authorities realized that marriage and love distracted young men from joining the military, they outlawed it. However, the Saint continued to perform marriages for young lovers, which would have been considered illegal. Emperor Claudius II eventually discovered what was going on and ordered him to be killed.
Another theory suggests that he was killed after attempting to help Christians escape the clutches of the Roman Empire. Supposedly, on his visits to the prison, he fell in love with a prisoner’s daughter, who visited daily. Apparently, he wrote her a letter containing the phrase, “From your Valentine” – something endlessly glorified in the modern day.
Some people also believe that Pope Julius I built a church and named it after a man named Valentino, who donated the land for the church to be built as well as paid for maintenance and other services. Somewhere along the line, the Valentino mentioned was executed for an unknown reason and the church he built was abandoned.
As Valentine’s reputation increased, a festival began to be celebrated in his name. The traditional Roman festival of Lupercalia celebrated the Greek god of agriculture. During this celebration, animals would be slain and eaten. Later, bachelors of the city would end up randomly choosing from a huge pot of names to “match” for a year. As these matches often led to marriage, it was usually seen as a highly romantic and successful way of match making As the Roman traditional religion was neglected, this ceremony was eventually adapted in honor of Saint Valentine, hence the holiday celebrated today.