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When did Valentine's Day start?

Happy Valentine's day! I hope your day had the amount of love you needed today. If not, you can always feel grateful when you think about the fact you're here instead of being hit by a slaughtered goat pelt... or worse, running around naked, hitting women with pelts... Oh sorry, are you not familiar with the festival of Lupercalia?! Well Valentine's day is thought to have taken it's place... but holidays from long ago are often hard to pin down exact facts... Ok here it goes:

So the festival of Lupercalia is a pagan festival where young men strip down naked and sacrifice a male goat and a dog and cut strips of the animals pelts to use in a fertility rite... Or the less gory of the festival celebrations where a man would draw the name of a woman and they would be paired up, successful matches would end up in marriage.

There are several legends surrounding the life of Saint Valentine. The most common story is that on February 14 sometime during the 3rd century A.D., a man named Valentine was executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II after being imprisoned for assisting persecuted Christians and secretly marrying Christian couples in love.

As the story goes, during Valentine’s imprisonment he tried converting Claudius to Christianity. Claudius became enraged and ordered Valentine to reject his faith or be killed. He refused to forsake his faith, so Valentine was beheaded.

Another story, of which I prefer to imagine, states Valentine and the jailers daughter prayed to God to restore Julia’s sight which was restored. On the eve of his execution, Valentine supposedly wrote a note to Julia and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

Some historians believe more than one man named Valentine was executed by Claudius II. Despite the ambiguity surrounding Valentine and his life, the Catholic Church declared him a saint and listed him in Roman Martyrology as being martyred on February 14.

Thanks to Saint Valentine’s reputation as a “patron of lovers,” he became synonymous with romance. In the late 5th century A.D., Pope Gelasius I eliminated the pagan celebration of Lupercalia and declared February 14 a day to celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Valentine instead, although it’s highly unlikely he intended the day to commemorate love and passion.

However, a University of Kansas English professor, Jack B. Oruch, had a different theory, he determined that the poet Geoffrey Chaucer linked love with St. Valentine for the first time in his 14th-century works "The Parlement of Foules" and "The Complaint of Mars." Therefore, Oruch claimed that Chaucer invented Valentine's Day as we know it today. (At the time of Chaucer's writing, February 14 also happened to be considered the first day of spring in Britain, since it was the beginning of birds' mating season—perfectly appropriate for a celebration of affection, like Lupercalia.)

Shakespeare further popularized Valentine's days association with love and soon people began penning and exchanging love letters to celebrate Valentine's Day, and by the early 1910s, an American company, that would one day become Hallmark, began distributing its more official "Valentine's Day cards." Flowers, candy, jewelry, and more followed, and the rest, of course, is history.

There you have it, in a sloppy nut shell, but it's covered in red hearts and doves and has a banner asking you to be my Valentine, so does that count?

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