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How did Valentine’s day originate and what is the story of Saint Valentine?

Information relating to the story of Saint Valentine is slightly confusing. One legend is that Valentine was a Roman priest who served during the third century in Rome. At the time, Emperor Claudius II (also known as Claudius Gothicus) was in reign . The Emperor decided that single men were better soldiers than those who had wives and families and so he outlawed marriage. When the Emperor discovered that Valentine was marrying Christian couples, Valentine was arrested and imprisoned. Valentine was ordered to reject his faith or be killed. Refusing to reject his faith, Valentine was beheaded on 14th February.

Valentine was named a saint after his death. But just how many Saint Valentines are there? Valentine was a popular name at the time and there is some confusion about the true identity of Saint Valentine. There is another story about a man also called Valentine who was a Bishop of Terni, he also performed marriages and he was also killed on 14th February. There is also another Saint Valentine who was in Africa.

A festival called the feast of Lupercalia is associated with the origins of Saint Valentine’s day. Celebrated annually in mid-February by ancient Romans, it was a raucous pagan spring fertility festival. During the festivities, goats and dogs were sacrificed and near naked young men ran through the streets of Rome, spanking young maidens with goat or dog skin whips in the hope of increasing the women’s fertility.

At the end of the 5th Century Pope Gelasius I tried to deter or eliminate the pagan celebration of Lupercalia by declaring February 14th a day to honour the martyrdom of Saint Valentine instead. It’s highly unlikely however that Pope Gelasius I intended the day to commemorate love or passion.

February 14th was not associated with love and romance until the 1300s. At that time people believed that February 14th was the beginning of the bird’s mating season.

Regardless of its origins, Valentine's Day is now celebrated around the world. Our modern celebration is of a day of love, romance, and affection, it is also a popular day for making marriage proposals. The day is celebrated by the giving of cards, flowers and other gifts. It may also be celebrated with a romantic meal, or by going out. Valentine’s day does not just have to be for lovers only, it can also be a day to express affection for special friends and family members.

However you choose to celebrate the day this year I hope you have a “Happy Valentine’s day”.