The Origin of Valentine’s Day

The Origin of Valentine’s Day

Many people around the globe celebrate February as the month of love. Specifically, the 14th day of the month is usually referred to as Heart’s Day or Valentine’s Day. During this day, romantic couples, couples-to-be, families, and friends express their feelings of affection or gratitude to the people close to their hearts—usually by giving special gifts or by going out. 

“Valentine” comes from the Latin word valentia, which means “strength” or “capacity.” While the real history behind Valentine’s Day itself remains a mystery, there are different stories that tell how the modern celebration of heart’s day originated.

The Lupercalia festival

One version says that Valentine’s day actually originated from one of the most ancient Roman sex tradition, the Lupercalia festival.

The Lupercalia festival, which dates back to before the Christian era, was celebrated annually on February 15 to honor of the Roman god of fertility, Lupercus. In Roman mythology, Lupercus is said to be the she-wolf who raised Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, in a cave called Lupercal.

During the Lupercalia festival, Romans offer goats and dogs to the fertility god, which is said to be remarkable for its sexual instinct. Young men would also strip themselves naked and hit the women with a goat’s or a dog’s skin. This particular action, in their belief, would make women fertile. Women’s names were also placed in jars as a lottery for men.

It is said that the early Roman Catholic church, unable to completely remove the pagan tradition from the people, adopted this festival with revisions.

St. Valentine

Another version of the origin of Valentine’s Day tells the story of Saint Valentine in the Roman Catholic belief. Around 496 AD, then-Pope Gelasius I declared February 14 as the feast day of Saint Valentine, their patron of love and couples.

In the Catholic church, there were at least three different men named Valentine, or also referred to as Valentinus in other versions, who were all martyred on February 14. The question who among them Pope Gelasius intended to honor, however, was not known.

One story suggests that Valentine was a priest during the third century in Rome, under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Emperor Claudius was said to have banned young men from marrying in theory that single men were better soldiers than married men who worry about their wives and families. Despite the emperor’s decree, Valentine continued to perform marriage rites. Upon the discovery of his actions, the priest was put to death.

There was also another version that says Valentine used to help early Christians escape Roman tortures.

Another legend tells the story of Valentine’s own love tale. Valentine, a Christian who was imprisoned, fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. Valentine was said to have written a letter to her before his death, which contains the phrase from your Valentine, an expression that is still widely used today. There was also a theory that says the daughter was used to be blind but Valentine was able to heal her sight. This event, according to the story, converted the jailer to Christianity.

In 1969, however, due to Saint Valentine’s unclear history, the Roman Catholic Church removed his feast day from their general liturgical calendar.

The present February 14

Presently, Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated by different countries across the globe, regardless of the dominant religion—including the Philippines and the United States.

Despite being an unofficial holiday, most public places—such as restaurants and gift shops—decorate their stores with Valentine’s Day-themed ornaments. These usually include hearts and Cupid, the mythical Roman god of love who resembles an infant with wings holding a bow and arrow.

So how do Filipinos celebrate Valentine’s Day? Here are just some of the many ways Filipinos express love during the day of the hearts:

1. Gift-giving

Just like any other occasion, giving gifts has always been part of the Filipino Valentine’s Day. Among the common presents people give to their love ones include chocolates, flowers, and stuffed animals. In the Philippines, you’ll immediately know it’s already February when you start to see people selling roses and teddy bears along the streets.

2. Dates

Going on dates is, of course, one of the highlights in celebrating the holiday. Romantic couples usually go on ‘special’ dates on February 14—some couples celebrate it on other days, though, especially when the 14th falls on a weekday. While the kind of date itself varies, couples usually tend to make it more meaningful than their usual dates.

Apart from couples, some Filipino families also celebrate Valentine’s Day together, just like Christmas and New Year but in a less-grand way. During Valentine’s, families usually go out and eat dinner or watch movies. Children usually give letters of gratitude or small gifts to their parents.

3. Confessions and proposal

For some people, Valentine’s is one of the perfect days to confess their love or propose to their loved ones. After all, the month of February itself has a very sweet atmosphere. With all the sales, special items and promos during the month of hearts, confessions and proposals fit the mood.

These are just some of the ways how Filipinos usually celebrate Valentine’s. As diverse as countries and cultures are, so are the people’s practices when celebrating Valentine’s Day.

However, one thing is no doubt a common factor when people mark this holiday: people always try to show their appreciation to the people they love—whether it’s romantic love, family love, friendship love, or even gratitude, people try to express their feelings of affection.

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