In the vibrant tapestry of life, Valentine’s Day emerges as a time of celebration and reflection on love and human relationships. However, beyond the flowers and chocolates, this holiday also invites us to explore our emotions and connections with others.
February 14 is a special day for many people around the world, marked by the exchange of signs of love and affection. But have you ever wondered why we celebrate Valentine’s Day on this specific date?
To understand it, we must go back in time and explore the historical roots of this holiday. From ancient Roman traditions to the veneration of a Christian saint, Valentine’s Day has evolved over the centuries, adapting to different cultures and beliefs.
Origin of lover’s day
The origin of Valentine’s Day dates back to ancient Rome, where a holiday known as Lupercalia was celebrated. This festival, which took place on the Ides of February (13th to 15th), was dedicated to fertility and health.
The Lupercales (or Lupercalia) was an ancient pastoral festival, possibly pre-Roman, that was celebrated between February 13 and 15, to avoid evil spirits and purify the city, and to release health and fertility.
Origins of Lupercalia
The Lupercales absorbed Februa, an older cleansing ritual that was celebrated at the beginning of spring, on the same date, and which gave its name to the month of February (Februarius).
In ancient times it was believed that the name Lupercalia evidenced some type of connection with the ancient ancient Greek festival of the Lyceae or Lykaias (from the ancient Greek “lukos” and the Latin “lupus”, meaning “wolf”) and with the worship of the god Pan, Greek equivalent of Faun. In Roman mythology, Lupercus is a god identified with the Roman god Faunus, who is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Pan. Lupercus is the god of shepherds. His festival, celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of his temple on February 15, was called Lupercalia. Their priests wore goat skins.
Marcus Junianus Justin, a second-century Roman historian, mentions an image of “the Lycaean god, whom the Greeks call Pan and the Romans Luperchus,” naked except for the goatskin girdle, which was placed in the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. There, on the Ides of February (the day of the month that corresponded with the full Moon was called “ides”, so it was a mobile day: it was the 13th of each month except in March, May, July and October, in which was the 15th), a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and some cakes of salty food that had been prepared by the vestal virgins (consecrated to the goddess of the home Vesta) were burned.
What was the Lupercalia party like?
Plutarch described the Lupercales: “The Lupercales, of which many have anciently written, was celebrated by shepherds, and also has some connection with the Lykaias. Nowadays many of the young nobles and magistrates run naked through the city, for fun and joyfully beating those they meet with hairy thongs. And many women of rank deliberately place themselves in his way, and like children at school, present their hands to be beaten, in the belief that pregnancy will end in childbirth assisted in delivery, and sterility in a pregnancy”.
Development of the festival
The Lupercalia festival was partly in honor of Lupa, the wolf who suckled the orphans Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, which explains the name of the festival (Lupercalia means “Wolf Festival”). The festival is celebrated near the Lupercal Cave on the Palatine Hill (the central hill where, according to tradition, Rome was founded), to atone and purify the new life in the spring.
The rites were conducted by the Luperci, the “brothers of the wolf”, a congregation of priests worshiping Faunus, dressed only in a goatskin, whose institution is attributed either to the Arcadian Evander, or to Romulus and Remus.
The festival began with the sacrifice of two goats and a dog by the Lupercos. Then, two young patrician Lupercos were brought to the altar to have their foreheads anointed with the sacrificial blood, which was wiped from the knife used for the sacrifice with wool soaked in milk, after which they were to burst into ritual laughter.
The sacrificial festival continued, and the Lupercus cut the skins of the sacrificed animals into straps (called Februa), dressed in them, in imitation of Lupercus, and ran around the walls of the ancient city of Palatine, with the straps in his hands in two bands, hitting the people who crowded nearby. Being whipped by the leather strips of the lupercos was equivalent to an act of purification, and was called “februatio.” Girls and young women lined his route to receive the lashings, which were supposed to ensure fertility and ease labor pains.
Fertility rite of women
For women, this rite increased their fertility by turning their flesh purple. This color represented the prostitutes of the time, particularly those who practiced sacred prostitution with the lupercos in the Ara Máxima, also called “lupas” or wolves (hence the name “lupanar” given to the brothels). Helen of Troy dressed in this color to offend her husband Menelaus
In the 5th century, during the papacy of Gelasius I (when the public performance of pagan rites had been declared illegal), the Roman people, nominally Christian, still clung to the Lupercales. These festivals had been deteriorating since the 1st century, when the nobility actively participated, and in the 5th century the upper classes had already left the festivities to the rabble. But some senators, like Andromache, wanted to preserve them. After a long dispute, Gelasius finally abolished the Lupercales.
Some authors claim that Gelasius replaced these festivals with the “Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary”, but others claim that there is no written record that Gelasius intended to replace the Lupercales.
Valentine’s day in the middle ages
During the Middle Ages, especially in France and England, the belief developed that February 14 marked the beginning of the mating season for birds, which contributed to associating this day with romance. This idea was popularized by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer in his work “Parliament of Foules” of 1375.
While romantic Valentine’s Day celebrations were already common in the Middle Ages, it wasn’t until after 1400 that written Valentine’s Day messages began to appear. One of the first records of this type of congratulation dates back to 1415, when Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote a poem to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London. Later, King Henry V is believed to have hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a congratulatory note to Catherine of Valois.
Until 1969, Valentine’s Day was celebrated as a religious holiday in the calendar of the Catholic Church. However, under the pontificate of Paul VI and as part of the post-conciliar reforms agreed upon at the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church decided to eliminate Valentine’s Day as a holiday from the liturgical calendar.
This decision was made mainly due to the lack of probable details about Valentine’s life. Over the years, the history and biographical details of this saint have been the subject of debate and controversy, leading the Church to question the authenticity and relevance of his celebration as a religious holiday.
Lover’s day in the world
Over the centuries, customs related to Valentine’s Day evolved. By the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900, printed cards began to replace handwritten letters thanks to advances in printing technology.
In the United States, the exchange of Valentine’s cards dates back to the 18th century, but it was in the 1840s that Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced cards in the country.
In other parts of the world, Valentine’s Day celebrations have also had their particularities. For example, in Saudi Arabia it was prohibited for many years, but since 2019 couples can celebrate it publicly. In Japan, Valentine’s Day has been celebrated since 1958, with women giving chocolates to men, and a month later, on White Day, men return the gesture with white gifts.
Since then, Valentine’s Day has become an occasion to express love and affection towards loved ones, a tradition that has spread throughout the world, enriched with myths and legends that add color and depth to the celebration.
Valentine’s day: The patron saint of lovers
The figure of Saint Valentine, revered as the patron saint of lovers, has been the symbol of love and romanticism in Western culture for centuries.
The history of Saint Valentine dates back to the 3rd century in Rome, during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. At that time, Valentine, a Christian priest, defied the emperor’s orders by celebrating marriages for young lovers in secret, considering that marriage strengthened the soldiers, which went against Claudius II’s policy that sought to keep young people away from marital ties to focus on the army.
Valentine was arrested and imprisoned for his actions, but even in prison, he showed compassion and love by healing his jailer’s blind daughter, leading to the latter’s conversion to Christianity. However, despite his miracles and generosity, Valentine was sentenced to death and executed on February 14, 270.
The connection between Valentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day was strengthened in the Middle Ages, when the saint began to be associated with romantic love and affection between couples. It was believed that those who prayed for Valentine’s Day would find true love and happiness in their relationships.
Over the centuries, various legends and stories have contributed to the association of Valentine’s Day with love. One of the most famous is the story of the love letter that Valentine sent from prison to his jailer’s daughter, signed “From your Valentine,” a gesture that is considered the inspiration for the Valentine’s cards we exchange today.
These legends and stories have enriched the figure of Saint Valentine as a symbol of eternal love and commitment, consolidating his position as the celestial patron of lovers.
The day lover’s day today
Valentine’s Day has undergone significant evolution over the centuries, transforming from a religious holiday to a secular celebration centered on love and romance.
In its beginnings, the celebration of Valentine’s Day was marked by religious rituals and customs, such as attending religious services in honor of the saint and giving small gifts as a symbol of love and friendship.
However, over time, Valentine’s Day has become increasingly commercialized, with the retail industry using the occasion to promote the sale of love-related products such as cards, chocolates, flowers and gifts. romantics.
Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world in various ways. In many countries, couples exchange gifts and tokens of affection, while in other places, the holiday focuses on love and friendship in general, being an occasion to express gratitude towards those who are important in our lives.
In addition to material gifts, Valentine’s Day is also celebrated with romantic dinners, weekend getaways, and gestures of affection, such as love letters and sentimental messages.
While commercialization has played a large role in popularizing Valentine’s Day, many still find value in celebrating this holiday as an opportunity to express love and appreciation toward their loved ones.
Criticism and controversies on lover’s day
While Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated and appreciated in many parts of the world, it has also been the subject of criticism and controversy from some sections of society.
Among the opinions against the celebration are those who argue that the day has become too commercialized, losing its true meaning of love and genuine affection. Many people criticize the social and commercial pressure to buy expensive gifts and participate in extravagant activities, instead of celebrating love in more authentic and meaningful ways.
Additionally, some critics point out that Valentine’s Day can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and exclusion in those who do not have a partner or who have lost a loved one. For these people, the holiday can be a painful reminder of their relationship situation, leading to feelings of sadness and depression.
From a social and cultural point of view, Valentine’s Day has also sparked debates about gender issues and traditional roles in relationships. Some people criticize the stereotypical portrayal of romantic love in media and advertising, arguing that it perpetuates unrealistic expectations and gender inequalities.
Additionally, in some cultures and religions, the celebration of Valentine’s Day may conflict with traditional beliefs and values. For example, in certain countries with predominantly Muslim populations, the holiday is seen as a Western influence and a threat to cultural and religious identity.
Cultural and social impact of valentine’s day
Valentine’s Day, as a cultural phenomenon, has left a deep mark on contemporary society, influencing our perceptions of love, interpersonal relationships, and the expression of affection.
First of all, this celebration has contributed to the creation of a culture of romance, where love and passion are exalted and celebrated in various ways. From greeting cards to romantic dinners, Valentine’s Day offers opportunities to express affection and demonstrate commitment to your partner.
In addition, Valentine’s Day has also influenced our interpersonal relationships, by encouraging open communication and the expression of feelings. Many people take advantage of this occasion to share their most intimate emotions and strengthen emotional ties with their loved ones.
However, it is also important to recognize that Valentine’s Day can create pressure and unrealistic expectations for some people, especially those who do not have a partner or who are experiencing difficulties in their relationships. The commercialization of the holiday can create a sense of obligation to participate in expensive and elaborate activities, which can cause stress and anxiety in some individuals.
Additionally, the focus on romantic love on Valentine’s Day can overshadow other forms of love and affection, such as filial, brotherly, and friendly love. It is important to remember that love takes many forms and is not just limited to romantic relationships.
Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14, is a holiday with deep historical roots and cultural meanings that have evolved over time. From its origins in ancient Roman celebrations to its association with romantic love and the figure of Saint Valentine, this special date has captured the imagination of people around the world.
Over the centuries, Valentine’s Day has evolved from a religious holiday to a secular celebration, marked by the exchange of gifts, gestures of affection, and expressions of love. While this evolution has led to greater commercialization of the holiday, it has also allowed people to celebrate love in all its forms and manifestations.
It is important to recognize that Valentine’s Day is not without criticism and controversy, as some people question its commercialization, emotional impact, and stereotypical representations of romantic love. However, it is also an opportunity to reflect on how we can celebrate love in more inclusive, authentic and meaningful ways.
Ultimately, Valentine’s Day invites us to value and celebrate love in all its forms, reminding us of the importance of expressing affection and appreciation toward those who are important in our lives. Whether as a couple, with friends or as a family, this holiday reminds us of the power of love to unite us and enrich our lives.