The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.

BEACON

The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.

BEACON

The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.

BEACON

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Valentine’s Day Origins

Valentine’s Day Origins

Valentine’s Day, with its roots in ancient customs and romantic legends, has a rich history spanning centuries of tradition and cultural change. It was named after St. Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome in the third century. However, the holiday wasn’t celebrated romantically until around the 14th century. It has evolved to be a day when romance and love are celebrated in many regions of the world.  

The Christian roots of Valentine’s day trace back to feasts that celebrated the decapitation of Saint Valentine, a Christian martyr. He is said to have been imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. It’s said that he healed the daughter of his jailer and sent her a note signed “Your Valentine” before his execution on February 14th. Romantic, right? The numerous stories of sacrifice and affection regarding Saint Valentine led to the association of Valentine’s day with romantic love. 

Valentine’s day hasn’t always held the same modern day traditions. Lupercalia was a pastoral festival in Ancient Rome that happened annually from February 13th to 15th. It was created to celebrate fertility and prosperity; however, it was a very violent affair. NPR, a reliable radio organization, described the Lupercalia traditions, “The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain”. This was a tradition along with matchmaking; men would draw women’s names from a jar to determine their partner for the festival’s duration. Clearly, those ancient traditions have become outdated. Nowadays, we mainly exchange cards, flowers, candy, and other gifts. 

During the Middle Ages, the celebration of Valentine’s day continued to evolve. It became an occasion for exchanging affection through poems, songs, and acts of chivalry. Courtly love was popularized by Geoffrey Chaucer, a 14th century English poet who mainly wrote about medieval English society. His definition of love involves a man courting a woman, usually the woman has no say in who she ends up marrying. It often emphasized devotion between knights and noblewomen from a distance. Thankfully, relationships nowadays are more about equality, communication, and mutual respect.

In conclusion, the history of Valentine’s day originates from Christian martyrdom, ancient Roman festivals, and medieval courtly love. Traditions have evolved significantly from sacrificing animals to exchanging gifts to show appreciation for partners, family, and friends. Valentine’s day is a celebration of love that has endured centuries as a symbol of love and human connection.

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