Unveiling the Myths and Legends of Valentine’s Day

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The Valentine's Day Memorial Walk brought out a small but determined crowd. These two shared time making snow angels and a hug.

Exploring the Enigmatic Origins and Tales Behind the Day of Love

Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14th, is synonymous with expressions of love and affection. But beneath the surface of this modern celebration of romance lie ancient myths and legends, each contributing to the rich tapestry of Valentine’s Day history.

From pagan festivals to the tales of martyred saints, the origins of Valentine’s Day are as intriguing as they are varied.

Of course while today, its bouquets of roses, boxes of heart-shaped chocolates and a romantic dinner, but it was not always like it is today.

The Festival of Lupercalia

One of the earliest precursors to Valentine’s Day is Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival held from February 13th to 15th. This pagan celebration involved rites for purification and fertility, featuring sacrifices and the slapping of women with goat-hide strips, believed to confer fertility. Despite its less-than-romantic practices, Lupercalia laid the groundwork for a mid-February celebration of love.

The Legend of St. Valentine

The most popular legend associated with Valentine’s Day is that of St. Valentine, a Roman priest who lived during the 3rd century. Under the reign of Emperor Claudius II, who believed that single men made better soldiers and thus outlawed marriage for young men, Valentine continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Eventually, his defiance led to his arrest and execution.

Before his death, it’s said that he wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended (or healed, according to some versions), signing it “From your Valentine” — a phrase that lives on today.

The Valentine’s Day Massacre

While not a myth or legend in the traditional sense, the Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 adds a darker chapter to the date’s history. This infamous event saw the murder of seven members of Chicago’s North Side Gang, attributed to rivals led by Al Capone. It’s a stark reminder of how Valentine’s Day has been marked by not just love but also conflict throughout history.

The Connection to Birds

Medieval England and France held the belief that February 14th was the beginning of birds’ mating season, adding to the day’s associations with romance. This connection was popularized by poets like Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote in “The Parliament of Fowls” about the gathering of birds on St. Valentine’s Day to choose their mates.

The Multiplicity of St. Valentines

Adding to the day’s mystique is the existence of multiple St. Valentines within the Catholic Church, including one who was a bishop. The varied accounts of their deeds and the miracles attributed to them contribute to the complex narrative surrounding Valentine’s Day’s origins.

Some serious cheese and smiles at Boston Pizza with Valentine's Day Charity raising
Some serious cheese and smiles at Boston Pizza with Valentine’s Day Charity raising

Commercialization and Modern Myths

As Valentine’s Day evolved, so did its commercialization, leading to modern myths about its origins as a holiday invented by greeting card companies. While commercial interests have certainly played a part in shaping contemporary celebrations, the roots of Valentine’s Day are far deeper and culturally significant than mere marketing strategies.

Valentine’s Day, with its blend of ancient rites, legendary figures, and enduring traditions, represents a fascinating convergence of history and myth.

Its celebration across the globe serves as a testament to the enduring appeal of love and the mysteries of its origins.

As we exchange cards, chocolates, and flowers, we partake in a tradition steeped in legend, continuing the legacy of a day dedicated to the power and passion of love.

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