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The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

A Look Into the Origins of Valentine’s Day

A+Look+Into+the+Origins+of+Valentines+Day
Annemarie Mullet

Valentine’s Day is a day devoted to our other half, the special person in our life, or maybe even just loving ourselves. The annual holiday celebrated on the fourteenth of February is a day that many of us associate with love, candy and everything red. But the true origins of the holiday are far from the modern celebration. So how did Valentine’s Day begin? And how did it become all about love in the first place?

There are two origin stories for the holiday, both of which likely melded into the modern day of love that we all know today. The Christian side of the story retells the legend of Saint Valentine, and while the exact deeds of what he did are debated, he was martyred by Roman Emperor Claudius II. The most popular interpretation of Saint Valentine’s tale says that the Saint was killed for marrying young couples at a time when young men were barred from being married. The whereabouts of Saint Valentine’s remains are unknown, but three different churches claim to house the remains, the most notable being Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland. Here, couples across the world make the pilgrimage to Saint Valentine’s shrine to have their marriages blessed.

There is another potential origin for the holiday, one of pagan roots. Every year on February 15, Roman priests would gather at the cave where Romulus and Remus were allegedly born, and they would sacrifice a goat and dog for fertility and purification. This ritual was done to bless mothers with fertility in the coming year. Legend also states that the names of single women would be put in an urn and bachelors would draw to be paired with her for a year, an arrangement that often ended in marriage.

These two traditions likely bled into one another to create the Valentine’s Day we all know today, but where do the modern tropes and traditions come into play? These two traditions of love and fertility melded together after the Roman ritual was outlawed for being pagan, but exactly when this happened is unknown. The earliest recorded mention of Valentine’s Day was in a poem written by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1375, which mentions “or this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,.” The earliest valentines we know of is from 1415, when Duke Charles of Orleans wrote a poem to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London. The holiday began to be celebrated in England, the United States, France, Mexico and Australia by the 17th century, and the tradition of giving out handwritten notes of affection began to spread around that time, becoming widespread by the middle of the 18th century. The tradition of giving candies to loved ones began with chocolate manufacturer Richard Cadbury, who began the craze of selling heart-shaped chocolate in artistic boxes.

Valentine’s Day is a day to show love to those around us and to that special person in our lives. Whether it began with the death of a Saint or some animals, it has grown to be so much more. On the day to show love to others, remember to show love to yourself as well. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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About the Contributor
Annemarie Mullet, Managing Editor

Annemarie Mullet is a senior from Kirkland, Wash. She is a digital arts major and creative writing minor. Annemarie also works at the Writing Center and in the digital art lab. When not working or doing school, Annemarie can be found doing art, crocheting, sewing, reading, or spending time with her ESA bunny, Mocha.

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