This week: The Origins of Valentine's DayEdited by: Lonewolf
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My name is Lonewolf and I am your editor for the Romance/Love newsletter this week. If you have a few moments I would love to hear any feedback you have.
I thought that with Valentine's Day just around the corner I would delve into the origins of the day. Valentine's Day is celebrated throughout the world and promotes Love and Romance which is what this newsletter is about.
Through my research there have been many theories as to the origin of Valentine's Day. Some believe it could have originated from the ancient Roman festival Lupercalis/Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that was held annually on February 15th. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14th. He proclaimed February 14th to be the feast day in honor of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century.
Although, no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday, one good place to start is ancient Rome, where men whipped women in a fertility ritual. On February 13th to the 15th, the Romans would celebrate the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. This brutal ritual included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The pairing of men and women did set the mood of the Valentine's Day we celebrate today.
A few legends that may shed some light on how the day came to be are as follows:
One legend says that during the reign of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in several bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius found it tough to get soldiers and felt the reason was that men did not join the army because they did not wish to leave their wives and families. As a result Claudius forbid all marriages and engagements in Rome. A romantic at heart a priest of Rome named Valentine defied Claudius's unjustified order. Along with Marius, Valentine secretly married couples. When his defiance was discovered, Valentine was brutally beaten and put to death on February 14th, around 270 AD. After his death Valentine was named a Saint.
Another version of the legend says Valentine was killed because he attempted to help Christians escape from a Roman prison as they were being tortured and beaten there. Yet another popular version of the legend states that while in prison Valentine or Valentinus fell in love with the jailer's daughter who visited him during his confinement. Before his death Valentine wrote a farewell letter to his sweetheart from the jail and signed 'From your Valentine'. The expression became quite popular amongst the love struck and is still today.
As the years went on, the holiday grew sweeter. Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare romanticized it in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Handmade paper cards became the preferred tokens in the Middle Ages.
Eventually, the tradition made its way to the New World. The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines. February has not been the same since.
The addition of flowers, chocolate, and jewelry to the Valentine's Day gift giving ritual is a fairly new invention that became popular during the second half of the 20th century. The first box of Valentine's Day chocolates was created by famed British chocolatier, Richard Cadbury, in 1868. On Valentine's Day it is estimated by the U.S. Greeting Card Association that there are over 190 million cards exchanged, making February 14th the most card giving holiday, second only to Christmas. Valentine's Day is third most important day for flowers, following Christmas and Mother's Day. It is also estimated that 73% of the floral buyers are men.
Chocolate sales for the occasion of Valentine's Day total over one billion (US) dollars every year. Worldwide, it is estimated that over $14 billion is spent each year in honor of Valentine's Day. In the 1980s, the diamond industry started an advertising campaign to encourage the giving of diamond jewelry on February 14th. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Valentine's Day is the most popular day for men to propose marriage to their ladies, and February 14th continues to be a popular day for couples to marry.
The advent of the internet has lead to the contemporary practice of sending out e-Valentines and love coupons. It is estimated that over 15 million e-Valentines were sent in 2010 alone.
No matter how you choose to celebrate February 14th (Valentine's Day) whether it be through the giving of Valentines or chocolate, through a romantic dinner, or even with a wedding proposal, what makes the day special is knowing that this holiday is celebrated by millions world wide.
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