Why We Celebrate Valentine’s Day?
The love-centered holiday known as Valentine’s Day is celebrated by people all over the world. Despite the frequency with which it is celebrated, not many people are familiar much else aside from the seemingly infinite heart images involved with the day.
While modern society has seen the day turned into something with chocolate promotions and vacation packages for couples, there is more to the story than simply feeding candy to your loved ones.
Origins of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day or Feast of Saint Valentine, takes place every year on the 14th of February. Though a popular day among the world population, the origins of the day are largely unknown. We know for certain that it has small traces of Christian and ancient Roman traditions.
The Catholic Church officially recognizes three saints that are named either Valentine or Valentinus. One story states that Valentine was a priest who served during the reign of Claudius II in Rome’s third century.
During the time that Claudius II ruled, he made a decree that single men were forbidden from marriage, the emperor at the time believing being single made a man a better soldier. Valentine was rumored to have disobeyed this order and married couples in the shadows, against the wishes of Rome’s ruler. When his actions were discovered, the priest was sentenced to death for his crimes. During the 3rd century, Claudius II did execute two men by the name of Valentine on February 14th in separate years.
Another story paints Valentine as a person who broke Christians out of hellish Roman prisons, where torture and inhumane treatment happened with great frequency. And in one, Valentine was a prisoner who fell in love a woman who he gave the letter to, allegedly signed with the ever-popular “From Your Valentine.”
Roman Valentine’s Day- Lupercalia
It is most commonly believed that the 14th of February signifies the day that St. Valentine was executed, an event believed to have happened either before or after 270 A.D. There is also the possibility that the modern Valentine’s Day coincides with the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia, which occurred from February 13 to the 15th.
Lupercalia was a fertility celebration to invoke the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus. It was also a way to honor the twin founders of Rome, Romulus, and Remus.
The beginning of the festival was marked by the Luperci, a special group of Roman priests, gathering at the cave where it is believed Rome’s founders were cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. To pray for fertility, the Luperci would sacrifice and goat and then purification would be asked for with the sacrifice of a dog.
A strip of goat hide would be dipped in blood and then whipped against the bodies of women by the Luperci. While the act of being whipped with animal hide might seem unwanted, Roman believed the physical abuse would aid in making them more fertile.
It is also rumored that a large urn was filled with the names of women for a random draw. Every single man at the celebration drew a single name and they were paired for the year with the woman whose name they drew. You’d be surprised how many people ended up married after the year they spent together.
Modern Day Valentine’s Day
While history’s Valentine’s Day does not have a definite structure, the modern day has seen small variations on the same holiday by country. In the United States, school-aged kids are often taken to the store by their parents to buy Valentine’s Day cards for their fellow classmates. Many candy shops will also have holiday-related sales, drawing in the crowd governed by their sweet tooth.
The country of Japan also observes Valentine’s Day, but things are a little different in the land of the rising sun. Dating back to the 1950s, Valentine’s started as an opportunity for female ‘kokuhaku,’ or actively confessing feelings.
On Japan’s Valentine’s Day, it is men that are given the sweets. Women can choose between two types of chocolates, “Giri-choco” (obligation chocolate), and “Honmei-choco.” The obligation chocolate, of course, is given to people such as a boss, male co-worker, or male family member. Honmei-choco sweets are given to a person they feel true love for.
Exactly a month after Valentine’s Day, Japan celebrates White Day. Falling on March 14th, this is the day for men to give gifts and chocolates to the women they have feelings for. Many of the chocolates marketed for this day are white, inspired by the celebration’s name.
Regardless of where you are celebrating Valentine’s Day or what variation, you can always count on chocolate to play a huge part in it.