The much anticipated, February 14 that is most widely known as Valentine’s Day is here yet again. This is a day when lovers show their appreciation and affection for each other, a day where persons are showered with gifts, chocolates, roses, jewelry and even those long-awaited wedding proposals.
Interestingly, the first Valentine’s Day card was sent in 1415 by the Duke of Orléans to his wife, while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. But, the big question is, have we truly sat and thought about what this day actually means? Or, even the history behind this day that we celebrate as Valentine’s Day?
It can be a surprise to many, but Valentine’s Day was not always about love. For centuries, the pagan holiday called Lupercalia was celebrated in the middle of February, which celebrates fertility in men. This holiday was deemed a bloody, violent, and sexually charged celebration where animals were sacrificed. There were also random matchmaking and coupling in the hopes of warding off evil spirits and infertility. This, however, came to an end in the late fifth century when Pope Gelasius came to power and the day was soon celebrated as a day of feasts by the Catholic Church.
Moreover, Professor Jack B. Oruch from the University of Kansas, argued that the poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first person to link Valentine’s Day to romance in his poem “The Parlement of Foules”. This was a poem describing a conference of birds that meet to choose their mates on St. Valentine’s Day. This was then followed by the famous poet Shakespeare, who helped to associate this day with romance by inciting romantic poems.
History also lists two men who are likely to be deemed this mysterious Saint Valentine title, but neither men were named such for matters of the heart. These two men were priests, who were both put to death by the Roman Emperor Claudius in the third century for having magical powers and have been said to have died on February 14, although years apart.
Furthermore, while Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated in Western countries, countries such as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia do not celebrate such as it contradicts aspects of their religion. Likewise, India does not celebrate the holiday for political reasons, as they believe the holiday promotes Western values.