How did Valentine’s Day start?


Who was Saint Valentine? (And what does he have to do with chocolate hearts?)

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Valentine’s Day is a fixed day on the calendar, and the ancient Roman calendar included a mid-February holiday even before St. Valentine’s time. That holiday (arguably the origin of Valentine’s Day), called Lupercalia, celebrated fertility, and may have included a ritual in which men and women were paired off by choosing names from a jar. In Ancient Greece, people observed a mid-winter celebration for the marriage of the god Zeus and the goddess Hera. Some historians wonder if these traditions may have influenced the way we now celebrate February 14.

Who was Saint Valentine? (And what does he have to do with chocolate hearts?)

Not much, it turns out. Saint Valentine’s Day was a feast day in the Catholic religion, added to the liturgical calendar around 500 AD. (Thanks, Pope Gelasius!) The day was commemorated for martyred saints named—you guessed it—Valentine. Differing legends celebrate three different saints called Valentine or Valentinus, but since very little was known about these men and there were conflicting reports of the Saint Valentine Day story, the feast day was removed from the Christian liturgical calendar in 1969.

 

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