Saint Valentine: The Mystery Behind Valentine's Day
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Saint Valentine: The Mystery Behind Valentine's Day

Who is Saint Valentine? Where did valentine's day traditions originated?

Every February 14, lovers all around the world exchanged chocolates, flowers and gifts all in the name of St. Valentine. It has also become the custom of sending greeting cards to express affection. The cards, known as valentines, are often designed with hearts to symbolize love between the receiver and the giver.

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The history of Valentine's Day which was named after someone who is called Saint Valentine is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance for two people who love each other. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from?

We celebrate Valentine’s Day without really knowing why it is being celebrated. We might be some of those people who have discussed and debated about the origins of Valentine’s Day but we’ll probably never be able to explore and explain all of the cultural and religious threads in order to reconstruct a complete and realistic story. The origins of Valentine’s Day lie too far in the past that it’s almost impossible to comprehend the story behind it. Despite this, there are enough speculations which seem be reasonably sound.

Valentine’s Day probably originated from the ancient Roman feast of Lupercalis, also called the Lupercalia which falls on February 15. Every year they have a ritual of fertility where eligible young men and women would be paired as couples through a town lottery. During the ceremony, two groups of young men sacrificed goats in a small cave or a grotto dedicated to Lupercal, the she-wolf god or god of fertility, which was located at the foot of Palatine Hill. It was here the Romans believed that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a she-wolf.  After sacrificing the goats, barely clad or naked men would run throughout the town while carrying newly sacrificed goats’ skin dipped in blood. As they ran a race along a specified course, they gently tap female bystanders by the strips which were marked by the blood so that their chances of conceiving in the coming year would improve.

Another legend that strikes most lovers is that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers, which was rather true, than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men in order for him to have potential and able soldiers. Valentine has realized the injustice of the decree and defied Claudius. He just continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, he was ordered to be put to death by Emperor Claudius.

According to another yet legend, Valentine has actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself. It is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl while he was in prison. The girl may have been his jailor’s daughter who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter and signed it with "From your Valentine." This is an expression that is still used worldwide today. The truth behind the Valentine legends has remained murky and mysterious but the stories emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages until now, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England, France and all over the world.


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