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Valentine’s Day Origin Story

Valentine’s Day Origin Story

  • Valentine's Day: Origin and preceding traditions of Valentine's Day, its evolution through the years.
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Valentine’s Day is the most profitable festivity after Christmas. It’s been influenced by American cinema since the early 2000s; sales, marriages, and even pregnancies increase across the continent during the celebration.

It’s a day to celebrate love and friendship, but do you know its origin? Do you know why we celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Origins of Valentine’s Day

Its origin is not exactly known, but Valentine’s day celebrations dates back to ancient Rome. One of its origins is the Lupercalia celebration, held on February 15 in Rome.

Feast of Lupercalia
Lupercal festivals, oil on canvas by Andrea Camassei.

Every year, a congregation of priests, the Lupercos or Luperci, was chosen from among the most illustrious members of the city. They were adolescents who during the time of their initiation into adulthood survived by hunting and wandering in the forest.

The lupercos met in the Ruminal grotto, where a priest from the Luperci congregation began the ceremony by sacrificing a goat, then dyed the luperci’s forehead with blood and erased it with a lock of wool impregnated with goat’s milk.

After that, a procession was formed with the naked lupercos who, with the skin of the animal, whipped the hands and backs of the women found along the way in the ceremony. It was considered an act of purification to encourage fertility.

Valentine’s Day also comes from the celebration dedicated to Juno Februata, the Roman goddess of purification and fertility. It started between February 13 and 15 and could last the whole month.

 Juno, godness of purification and fertility.
Juno, godness of purification and fertility.

It was tradition for young men to write on small papers the names of single girls in the community in honor of the goddess Juno. Men chose their partner by randomly taking a piece of paper. Afterwards, formed couples engaged in erotic games and stayed together temporarily, often ending in successful marriages.

Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

For decades, men and women continued to celebrate these pagan traditions, until the Catholic Church replaced them with the story of the priest Valentine.

In the third century in Rome, Emperor Claudius II banned marriage for young men in order to enlist them in the army. He considered single men to be better soldiers, as they had fewer strings attached. Valentine opposed this prohibition and secretly married couples in love (hence he became popular as the saint of lovers).

When he was discovered, he was sentenced to death on February 14, 270, which is why this date is taken to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This celebration is now globally known and celebrated.

How Do We Celebrate It?

Every country has its way of celebrating it and every year the question arises: What to give on the day of love and friendship? In Latin America it is very common to give friends sweets, letters and chocolates to thank them for their friendship. Couples give each other chocolates, flowers, or have nice romantic dinners.

How is Valentines Day Celebrated

A shared tradition among some Latin American countries is to give gifts anonymously to that special someone, like a secret admirer. In other countries such as Peru, it is tradition to give chocolates with special figures for the occasion, as well as orchids or poetry by peruvian writers.

Central America is used to making secret friend exchanges, people usually give chocolates and sweets to friends.

In Europe, countries such as Denmark and Norway maintain the tradition of giving «Gaekkebrev» – short poems with funny rhymes that men send to women anonymously. The sender puts as many points as there are letters in his name. The woman has to guess the name of the one in love with her; if she guesses right she gets an easter egg and if she misses she must give it to him.

In Germany, the tradition is less conventional. Couples celebrating Valentine’s Day have to give their lovers little pigs that offer flowers or chocolate hearts. The pig represents luck and depending on its position, lust.

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In England it is a tradition to place five bay leaves, one in each corner of the pillow and another in the center to try to attract the future husband.

Valentine’s Day In Latin America

According to Statista, the 5 Latin American countries where they celebrate Valentine’s Day the most are Mexico, Chile, Peru, Argentina and Colombia.

Mexico is the largest consumer of products during this holiday. In Argentina the «The Couple’s Day» is celebrated on September 20 and in Colombia the «Day of love and friendship» on September 21. For its part, in Bolivia it is celebrated on September 21.

In Brazil this festivity is called «Día dos namorados» (Lovers’ Day) and it is on June 12 in memory of Saint Anthony of Padua.

Latino countries which celebrate St. Valentine's Day
Latino countries which celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Source: Statista.

Updated: 01/24/2022.

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