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The History and Meaning of Saint Valentine's Day

Saint Valentine was a Roman who was killed for his faith on February 14, 269 A.D. He had refused to worship pagan gods, and some stories say he was a priest who would marry young couples in secret who loved each other but who did not have parental permission. In 496, his 'saint day' was established. He is associated with love because he fell in love with the daughter of his jailer, and would pass notes to her. His final note, before he was executed, read 'from your Valentine'.

In Italy, with its romantic and religious roots, St Valentine's Day became the traditional day to be engaged. Young Romans would spend this day gathered together in gardens to listen to romantic poetry and music.

As with many holidays, the celebration of St. Valentine's Day became a mixture of the new Christian rites as well as the older pagan rites of that same time of year. St. Valentine's Day happened to fall on the Roman festival of Lupercalia. This festival was held each February to protect the villages from wolves, who would at this point be starving and cold and begin to make their village raids.

During the festival of Lupercalia, young men would playfully whip women with stripes of animal hide, chasing them around town. It was felt that this festival made the women who were 'whipped' more fertile. The young men would sometimes draw the names of girls from a jar, to choose their partner for the day for any singing and dancing.

Valentine's Day Information


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