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The history of Valentine’s Day

We all know that Valentine’s Day is day of giving flowers, chocolates and heart-shaped gifts. It’s a day for the lovers, young and old. But do you know that the origin of this special day dates back to the Roman festival of Lupercalia? The Lupercalia was celebrated every spring, or in the middle of February, with fertility rituals and blind dates where women are paired with men by draw of lots. 

It was only at the last part of the 5th century, that Pope Gelasius stopped Lupercalia. And it was at this time when the Romans started celebrating St. Valentine’s Day. Back then it was not about flowers and chocolates, not even about lovers. It was the usual celebration of a feast of a saint, and on this particular day was for St. Valentine. It was only in the ensuing century when the romance aspect came into the scene.

There were Christian martyrs named Valentine, but history points to a priest who became a martyr in 270 CE by then emperor Claudius II Gothicus. This priest signed his letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer, whom he reportedly befriended. 

There were also accounts that it was about St. Valentine of Terni. St. Valentine was a bishop, who was also believed to be the same person with the martyred priest. There were no relevant documents that could verify this theory, however. According to history, St. Valentine became popular for secretly marrying couples to spare men from wars. This was a defiance to the emperor’s order. What he did however gained him the title for being the father of love.

It was in the 1500s when people started sending messages to their lovers, and in 1700s printed Valentine cards became popular. It was in the mid-1800s when the United States of America printed its first Valentine’s cards which showed Cupid, the Roman god of love. In the first cards there were hearts as symbols of love, and then birds being symbols for mating. Later on candies, flowers and roses have become part of the Valentine’s Day entourage. 

To this day, Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide on February 14. In the Philippines, couples engage or wed on Valentine’s Day to add more romance to the holiday. Over the years, Valentine’s Day has become a holiday not only for the lovers, but also for friends, families and even schoolchildren to their teachers. 

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