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The History of Valentine's Day

by Yvonne Liu

On February 14, candy, flowers, cards, and even gifts are exchanged between lovers, friends, and family in celebration of Valentine's Day. Red is symbolized as the holiday's color, the cost of a dozen red roses skyrockets, and restaurants overflow with people celebrating. But how did such a holiday of love come about?

According to one legend, the Valentine holiday has its origins in the ancient Roman feast of Lupercalia. In the early days of Rome, fierce wolves roamed the woods nearby, causing the Romans to call upon one of their gods, Lupercus, to keep the wolves away. A festival held in honor of Lupercus was celebrated February 15th. One of the customs of the young people was name-drawing. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man drew a slip. The girl whose name was chosen was to be his sweetheart for the year.

The holiday became Valentine's Day after a priest named Valentine, who was a priest in Rome at the time Christianity was a new religion. The Emperor at that time, Claudius II, ordered the Roman soldiers NOT to marry or become engaged. Claudius believed that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families because as married men, his soldiers would want to stay home with their families rather than fight his wars. Valentine defied the Emperor's decree and secretly married the young couples. He was eventually arrested, imprisoned, and put to death.

Valentine was beheaded on February 14th, the eve of the Roman holiday Lupercalia. After his death, Valentine was named a saint. As Rome became more Christian, the priests moved the spring holiday from the 15th of February to the 14th-Valentine's Day-which honored Saint Valentine instead of Lupercus.

Other stories also suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl-who may have been his jailor's daughter-who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today.

Whatever the case may be, the day has now become a holiday of love, good cheer, and romance, thanks in part to Cupid, the mischievous, winged child whose arrows who would pierce the hearts of his victims, causing them to fall deeply in love.

Source: Historychannel.com, Holidays.net

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