Hey everybody,
I hope everyone is doing okay!
The theme of this month, which is, for obvious reasons, love, and the fact that Valentine's was yesterday both inspired me to write this article. I thought it would be nice to look back at the history of and stories behind Valentine's Day, although shrouded in mystery. As sources are divided over the true origins of this holiday, I can only try my very best to explain the story as good as possible. February has long been known as the month of love, and it would be a sin not to write about how this happened!
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Saint Valentine's Day as we know it now is the day we celebrate love and our loved ones, but, as I said, the origins aren't as simple as one would think they'd be. The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named Valentine after all. Some say Valentine's Day was named after a priest in third-century Rome who defied Emporer Claudius II after the latter prohibited young men to marry. This bizarre law came to be after Claudius II decided that men were better soldiers when they were single. The priest was caught and beheaded for his crimes, and thus became a martyr. Another story says the day was named after bishop Valentine of Terni, who was also beheaded by Claudius II outside of Rome. Lastly, and perhaps most romantically, the story goes Valentine's day was named after a Valentine who fell in love with a young girl who visited him in jail every day. It is believed that this Valentine was the first ever to send Valentine's greetings. Right before his death, he sent his love a card signed 'From your Valentine', which is still very commonly used to this day. There is speculation that at least two of these men were actually one person. One thing that we can be sure of, is that they all had a couple of things in common. They were all very sympathetic, very heroic and most of all, very, very romantic. Another, less joyous, fact which they have in common is that they all became martyrs. And it is believed that Valentine's Day is celebrated on the day of the Saint's death or burial. By the middle-ages, Saint Valentine had become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

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Another belief, however, is that this holiday is celebrated in the middle of February so that the Church could 'Christianize' the Lupercalia celebrations. Lupercalia, which fell on the Ides of February, so February 15th, was a fertility festival in honour of the Roman god Faunus, god of agriculture, and in honour of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, as well. To kick off the celebrations, the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would go to the cave where Romulus and Remus were said to have been brought up by the she-wolf. They would offer a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. They would then strip the goat's hide and soak it in the sacrificial blood. With this blood-soaked hide, they would take to the streets and -gently- slap women and crop fields with it. Women didn't mind though, as this ritual was said to make them more fertile for the next year. Later that day young women would put their name in an urn, Hunger Games-style, and young men would randomly pick a name. The couple would have to spend the next year together, which often ended up in marriage.

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Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity, but became outlawed in the 5th century because it wasn't Christian enough. Instead, they introduced Saint Valentine's Day on the 14th of February. Later in the middle-ages, the French and English believed that this day was the beginning of pairing season for birds, which also symbolised romance. Geoffrey Chaucer, English poet, was the first to describe Valentine's Day as a romantic celebration in 1375 in his poem 'Parliament of Foules':

“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

The oldest Valentine to ever be written is believed to be a note written by Charles, Duke of Orleans. He wrote his wife during his imprisonment in the Tower of London in 1415 after the Battle of Agincourt. This note can still be found in the British Library in London, England. Writing notes to loved ones on Valentine's Day became more and more popular. Henry V even hired someone named John Lydgate to write a Valentine to Catherine of Valois. In the mid 18th century in England, it was common to send little notes to loved ones and by 1900 cards were mass-produced and sent out. This also became more popular thanks to the cheapening of postage rates. In America however, these notes were popularized in the early-1700s and in 1840 Esther A. Howland, now known as the mother of the Valentine, started mass producing Valentines. This tradition still runs to this in many a country. Have you sent any Valentine's cards this year?

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A common figure on these Valentine's is Cupid, portrayed as a chubby, little cherub. Behind Cupid and the whole reason for him being portrayed the way he is today, lies a whole other story. If anyone is interested, I would gladly write about it one day. As for now, I hope you enjoyed this article. I'm happy to be writing again, and I hope you'll enjoy the articles me and my fellow Muses will post from now on! Stay safe, stay healthy, send your loved ones a little note, and see you soon!

This article was written by @lilithcoenen for the Tenth Muse Writers Team.
Lilith
Lilith
@lilithcoenen