Valentines Day Origins-The Orlando Times
COMPILED BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Boasting a whopping $19.6 billion in America alone, Valentine’s Day holds a special position as the world’s most romantic holiday. Celebrated on February 14th, Valentine’s Day has continued to evolve with time and has changed significantly from its origins.
The holiday can be traced back to the ancient Roman celebration called the Feast of Lupercalia which was celebrated February 13-15. This was an ancient fertility festival in which Roman men used the skins of goats to whip women in the belief that this would make them fertile.
Later, Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. They were honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day.
It’s not clear which St Valentine this day was initially dedicated to, nevertheless, Pope Gelasius combined St. Valentine's Day with Lupercalia to reclaim this festival from the Romans and Christianise it. He called it Valentine’s Day and it was celebrated on February 14.
According to HistoryExtra.com, the oldest surviving Valentine’s letter in English dates at 1477 and was sent by Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston. In this letter Margery describes John as her “right well-beloved Valentine”.
By the 17th century Valentine’s Day continued to grow in popularity, with references in in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and other famous works.
It would not be until the 18th century that the first Valentine’s cards were sent. HistoryExtra.com reported that initially these were handmade efforts. Lovers would decorate paper with romantic symbols including flowers and love knots, often including puzzles and poems.
With the rapid industrialization of Britain in the early 19th-century, advances were made in printing and manufacturing. It became easier than ever to mass-produce Valentine’s cards, which soon became immensely popular. It is estimated that by the mid-1820s, some 200,000 Valentines were circulated in London alone, reported HistoryExtra.com. Typical imagery included flowers, love knots and Cupid.
In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. And he is known as the god of affection.
Due to his love-creating abilities, Cupid has become linked to Valentine’s Day. When greeting-card manufacturers made products for the holiday, they included imagery of Cupid that was inspired by beloved Renaissance paintings.
In the mid-19th century the Valentine’s card travelled across the Atlantic. Cards rapidly gained popularity in America. Advanced American technologies meant that more elaborate cards were produced cheaply, encouraging their popularity yet further. In 1913 Hallmark Cards produced their first Valentine’s card, representing a key development in the commercialization of Valentine’s Day, said HistoryExtra.
Thanks in large part to marketing campaigns, Valentine’s Day has today become a time not only for sending cards, but for buying flowers, jewelry, perfume and chocolates.
As with many other observances, the origins differ widely from how the holiday is celebrated today. In this case, it can be assumed that women appreciate a card and box of chocolates over being hit by goat skin.