Valentine’s Day: Before and Today

Xue explains the complicated story behind the widely celebrated holiday.

Written by ROBERT XUE / Published February 17, 2012  

Nowadays, February 14th is a day of cards, red roses, and chocolates, a day during which people express love in often outlandish ways. However, Valentine’s Day has not always been the way it is today; perhaps more so than any other holiday, it has changed from numerous influences.

It is fairly well-known that the holiday’s full name is St. Valentine’s Day. However, little is known about the saint behind the name, except for one astounding fact: there were two St. Valentines.

St. Valentine of Rome was martyred in 269 AD for his religious beliefs; St. Valentine of Terni, another martyr, faced persecution under the reign of Emperor Aurelian, circa 197 AD.

Originally, the holiday was a pagan celebration called Lupercalia; the Roman Catholics turned the day into a remembrance of the saints. It had absolutely nothing to do with romance!

It was not until the famed writer Geoffrey Chaucer composed a poem on February 14th to celebrate the engagement of King Richard II that the notion of romantic love became involved.

During the English Renaissance, St. Valentine’s Day became the subject of many romantic poems, and the holiday’s association with love developed.

The modern traditions evolved from the Victorian Era; “Valentines” made from lace and ribbons were the predecessors to the cards we know and love today.

In the United States, the tradition became intertwined with commercialism and mass production during the Industrial Revolution, producing the holiday we know and love.

Although the holiday and traditions have deviated, the general theme of remembrance has stayed the same. What better way is there to really celebrate Valentine’s Day but by showing loved ones that they are remembered?

A little bit of appreciation can go a long way, especially after hundreds of years of change.

So the next time the day comes to buy a box of chocolates for that special someone, or give a thank you note to friends and family, take a moment and think about how far Valentine’s Day has come.

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