Valentine's Day may be a celebration for lovers, or an opportunity for many to give gifts or chocolates to their loved ones, but it's still Valentine's Day. So who is this famous Valentine that everyone celebrates every year? While historians have a hard time agreeing on its origins, all agree that Valentine's Day is a (very) old tradition. Find out more about the origins and history of today's most popular holiday for lovers.
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Valentine's Day, where does it come from?
Today, Valentine's Day is celebrated the world over, but its origins lie in the legend of the priest Valentine of Terni, dating back to the 3rd century AD. Condemned to death by Claudius the Cruel for having blessed marriages forbidden by the Emperor, it is said that on the eve of his execution, he wrote a letter to the daughter of his prison warden. The girl, who was blind, recovered her sight thanks to his letter, which he signed 'your Valentine'. He died on February 14, which is why his legend gave birth to Valentine's Day.
For others, the roots of this holiday go back to the Romans. Indeed, during the Lupercales, a pagan ceremony to pay homage to the god of fertility, Lupercus, the pagans whipped women's bellies to make them fertile. Catholics, under Pope Gelasius I, decided to regulate this pagan tradition by introducing the Feast of Purification or Candlemas on February 2, followed by the Feast of Spiritual Love on February 14, the day before Lupercalia.
Whether it's the legend of the priest Valentine of Terni or the story of the Pagans and Pope Gelasius I, Valentine's Day didn't become the lovers' celebration it is today until the 20th century.
Valentine's Day, the contemporary evolution of the festival of lovers
It wasn't until the 14th century that the holiday became associated with Romanticism in England. It was the poets of this period who transformed it into a celebration of lovers and friendships. At the same time in France, Charles d'Orléans, on his return from a trip to England, is said to have applied it to the French Court: that's when February 14th became the occasion to send your lover a tender message.
Since 1496, the main purpose of Valentine's Day festivities has been to help single young people find their soul mates. Several customs were practiced: a game of hide-and-seek, in which single girls hid while the men had the mission of finding them. The couples formed could then last for an evening, or go all the way to marriage. In the 19th century, this tradition really took off thanks to 'Valentines', little sweet nothings that lovers or friends sent to each other.
Then, in the 20th century, Valentine's Day continued with the creation of greeting cards and became a holiday reserved for lovers.
Valentine's Day today
Today, Valentine's Day is a very popular holiday all over the world, mostly thanks to the United States. Many people take the opportunity to give gifts, whether chocolates, flowers or pretty cards. All, of course, dominated by the color red. That's why it's an ideal day for retailers! Florists, chocolatiers and confectioners see their sales increase. That's why some people are against this holiday, which they see as commercial rather than a celebration of love. Others, helpless romantics, look forward to this holiday to enjoy a special moment with their lover. It's often the perfect occasion to go to a chic, gourmet restaurant, to give a gift to your partner, to take a trip to a special, romantic place, like Paris... Some even go so far as to propose! Remember, just because there's a sweetheart's day doesn't mean you can't be thoughtful the rest of the year!
This article has been translated from Oh!MyMag FR.