What Is Valentine’s Day? Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day? History, Tradition, and More

Valentine’s Day, popularized in many countries as the day of love, actually has a very complex origin. At present time, 14th February is celebrated worldwide throughout various traditions and regions, although in some countries celebration of the day of love is prohibited.

Usually, the celebration is marked by expressing love between couples, giving and receiving gifts, spending the day with the partner, etc. The culture of Valentine’s Day is recurrent in films and books too.

But this is how we celebrate the day in the twenty-first century. What was it like in the nineteenth or eighteenth century? What in fact did give way to the choosing of February 14 as the day of love, known as Valentine’s Day?

Origin of Today’s Valentine’s Day:

Valentine's Day

The full name of Valentine’s Day is Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine. The day originated as a feast day for Christians to honor an early Christian martyr named Saint Valentine.

Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day around 498 A.D. Though according to some legends, the day is significant for not one, two martyred Saint Valentines.

A number of early Christian martyrs were named Valentine and the two Valentines related to this date are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. The first one was martyred in 269 and the latter in 273.

Legends say that Valentine of Rome was interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II during his imprisonment.

Claudius offered him to get converted to Roman paganism in exchange for life. But Valentine refused and instead tried to turn Claudius into a Christian for which he was executed.

But before his execution, he performed a miracle on the blind daughter of his jailer and healed her. After that, all the members of the jailers came to believe in Jesus and became baptized. This legend is found in a number of works about the martyrdom of Saints including Bede’s Martyrology.

In the collection of hagiographies, known as “The Golden Legend”, which was widely read in Europe in medieval times, an embellishment was reportedly added in the 18th century that states that on the eve of his execution, Valentine wrote something to the now no longer blind daughter of the jailer signing as “Your Valentine”.

This is what was later adapted by modern Valentine letters into the expression “From your Valentine”.

There are a number of other legends too some of which say that Julia herself planted an almond tree of pink blossoms near Valentine’s grave which led to the almond tree remains a symbol of love and friendship.

According to one other embellishment, he married off soldiers who were forbidden to marry, in clandestine Christian weddings, and according to others he used to cut hearts from parchment and give them to persecuted soldiers and Christians possibly giving birth to the widespread use of hearts on Valentine’s Day.

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Why Do We Celebrate Romantic Love on St. Valentine’s Day?

Valentine's Day

The simple answer to the question of whether there is any connection between romantic love with the origin of St. Valentine’s Day is that there is none. The date of 14th February had no romantic connotation until Chaucer used this date in one of his poems in the 14th century to suggest romantic love.

“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day When every bird comes there to choose his match”.

Chaucer wrote this verse in ‘Parliament of Fowls’ in honor of the first anniversary of the engagement between the fifteen years old Anne of Bohemia and King Richard II of England. It paved the way for the modern-day celebration of love on Valentine’s Day.

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Celebration and Tradition.

Valentine's Day

Clearly, Valentine’s is an occasion predominantly in the Christian and English-speaking countries.

The customs developed in early modern England and spread throughout the 19th century. During the next two centuries, these customs with other Christian aspects like the legend of Santa Claus spread to other countries.

In India, Bangladesh, and other countries Valentine’s celebrations spread through programs telecast on commercial TV channels like MTV. Though in some countries including Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia this occasion is not encouraged and in some cases prohibited.

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As a Hallmark Holiday:

Valentine's Day

In recent times Valentine’s has gained the reputation of a Hallmark Holiday due to its commercial significance. Worldwide lovers give each other cards, flowers, confectioneries, and other gifts as a sign of celebrating their love.