Valentine's Day

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The History of Valentine's Day

  Cupid   Valentine's Day probably has its origin in the ancient Roman celebration called Lupercalia. It was celebrated on the ides of February (February 15). In the Roman calendar February was in the spring.   The celebration honored the gods Lupercus and Faunus as well as the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. As part of the ceremony the priests paired up young men and women. The girls' names were placed in a box and each boy drew a girl's name.  The couple was paired then until the next Lupercalia. 

     In 260 AD the emperor Claudius II, called Claudius the Cruel, decided that young soldiers would only be distracted by marriage and so ordered that young men might not marry.  Valentinus (Valentine), a Christian priest, defied the emperor and married young people in secret. He was caught and executed on February 14, the eve of Lupercalia. His name became associated with young love forever after.  In 496, Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor him as Saint Valentine and it has been St. Valentine's Day ever since.

     In the Middle Ages some of the customs of the Lupercalia still persisted in spite of the attempts of the Church to put an end to these heathen customs and Christianize the holiday. Both men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear the names on their sleeves for a week.  Today we still sometimes "wear our hearts on our sleeves"  when we cannot conceal our feelings.

     In the 1600s it became common to give flowers, particularly the rose, as a sign of love as the "language of flowers" came to Europe from Turkey. The color and placement of the rose held a special significance - a red rose, for example, meant beauty. Flowers have been part of Valentine's Day ever since.

Ancient Rome

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