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The origin of Valentine's Day has evolved over time. While some scholars believe that it is a Christianization of Lupercalia, others believe it grew up around two saints named St. Valentine.
If Lupercalia influenced its origin, then it is first mentioned in 6th century BC according to the History Channel website.
Fortunately for us, little of the pagan holiday remains in our modern celebration of the day. Because, during 600 BCE, dogs and goats were sacrificed and their skins were drenched in their blood, then subsequently women were splattered with the blood soaked hides to help fertility in the coming year. After they were splattered, they then were matched with a mate for a year. From this practice, and the observation of birds mating on Feb. 14, introduces the idea of romantic love on this day.
Two saints named Valentine are honored on Feb. 14. Valentine of Rome was martyred in 269 CE and his remains were distributed to three different churches enabling pilgrims to visit him in Rome and in Dublin. He was on trial because he married Christian soldiers during a ban and he furthered his criminal acts by attempting to persuade Roman Emperor Claudius II to become a Christian during his audience with him.
Valentine of Terni was martyred in 273 his remains reside in Terni which is in central Italy and in New Minster, Westchester, Hampshire England. There was even a third St. Valentine who was martyred in North Africa, but little is known about him.
According to Wikipedia, the first mention of Valentine’s Day in association with romantic love was written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Parliament of Fowls (1382). The date appears to be well-established as a celebration of love in the Charter of the Court of Love issued by Charles VI of France in 1400 and the day included feasting, singing love songs, reading poetry, dancing and jousting (probably added to keep the men interested).
Shakespeare mentions the day in Hamlet written in 1600-1601. Edmund Spenser writes of it in the Faerie Queene instituting the verses and variations used today of "roses are red."
By the 19th century, Valentine’s Day cards were made commercially. The United Kingdom recorded 60,000 valentines were posted on Feb. 14, 1835. With the advent of the cheaper postage stamp, that number had jumped to 400,000 by 1840. Today the U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that 190 million valentines are sent in the United States alone and it has become a billion-dollar business.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently around the world. In Latin American countries, you might see people do acts of appreciation for their friends. In the middle east, you might share love through poetry, but in India and Iran, you might get into a cultural disagreement regarding tradition and neocolonialism influences.
In Japan, chocolates are exchanged with coworkers, but you know whether you are popular or not based upon the quality of chocolate exchanged. It also used to be only females giving chocolates, but in the 1980’s the chocolate companies saw that they could make twice as much and so they made a “reply day” for the men to exchange marshmallows to those they admired.
Originally a purveyor of drinking chocolates, the Cadbury Chocolate Company began to offer heart-shaped chocolate boxes in 1868 to get into the money-making holiday. The boxes could be used for trinkets after the chocolate was gone or the image on the top of the box could be removed and put in a scrapbook. Created by the world famous chocolatier, “Lindt Excellence: the Best Ever Recipes” is actually in the shape of a chocolate bar.
The Abilene Public Library has hundreds of titles about Valentine’s Day and its festivities for both children and adults. Please don’t forget our digital collections of Hallmark movies and other titles as well.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Valentine's Day wasn't always so rosy