Getting to the heart of Valentine’s Day

An image illustrating Saint Valentine. Photo courtesy

A shower of rose petals, chocolates, and love is how most spend their Valentine’s Day. However, has one ever wondered how Valentine’s Day originally started? Let’s get to the heart of why most celebrate this day.

The origin of Valentine’s Day comes from the Roman Festival of Lupercalia. The Lupercalia was an annual Roman party that was held in the middle of February to promote women’s fertility. During the party, the men would draw names of women from a box to be partners for the upcoming year.

However, some believed that Valentine’s Day came about when Geoffry Chaucer wrote a poem in the 14th century to honor the first anniversary of the engagement between King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. Author Bruce David Forbes says otherwise by explaining in his book how this day became a tradition.

“In 495, after the persecution of Christians had ended and Christianity had become the religion of the empire, Pope Gelasius I banned the Lupercalia because it was too licentious and he placed the commemoration of Saint Valentine in its place, on February 14, encouraging more appropriate Christian romantic relationships,” explained Forbes in his book “America’s Favorite Holidays”.

Saint Valentine was a Christian martyr that secretly conducted marriages for soldiers and their wives while it was banned by Roman Emperor Claudius. Around 270 A.D., his actions were discovered and he was arrested for disobeying the law. He soon fell in love with the judge’s daughter and wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” right before his execution on Feb. 14.

Florida A&M University religion professor, Zakiya Akeerle, gives further insight about the importance of Valentine’s Day.

An image illustrating the Ancient Roman Festival of Lupercalia filled with ritual sacrifices and whippings. Photo courtesy

“It is an official religious holiday in the Lutheran and Anglican churches and is still practiced as such to honor Saint Valentine,” said Akeerle. “Valentine’s Day is a religious holiday that symbolizes love and sacrifice for others. It is the commercial holiday that presents Valentine’s Day as solely a romantic holiday.”

Most refer to Valentine’s Day as a holiday, even though it is not a public holiday. In fact, there are some people in relationships that don’t believe Valentine’s Day is a holiday like FAMU student Kiana Reaves, a graduating senior majoring in psychology.

Reaves explains why she doesn’t consider Valentine’s Day to be a holiday.

“Holidays only happen once a year and the love shown on Valentine’s Day should be shown all year,” Reaves said. “But, the day is important to me because it’s a day that I can go above and beyond to show my significant other how much I appreciate him.”

Valentine’s Day is not just about showing affection to loved ones, it’s about celebrating how Saint Valentine died for fighting for the freedom of love on this religious day.