The origins of Valentine's Day
Some wait impatiently for him to give and receive proofs of love, others fear his melancholy coming: Valentine's Day honors lovers every February 14 and warms this cold winter day with his sweet words and tender attentions. Couples offer each other cards decorated with open-heart declarations, flowers, fine chocolates or other gifts and delicacies.
If this holiday is now widely celebrated throughout the world and carries with it its share of symbols and superstitions, what about its meaning and its origins in history? Between Christian roots, pagan celebrations and natural phenomena, let's set off together on the traces of the origins of Valentine's Day.
Who is this Valentine?
In ancient Rome, around the 3rd century, Claudius II reigned, a tyrannical emperor and warlord known for his heart of stone. Having noticed that married men, eager to stay with their wives and children, were less willing than others to join the army, he decided to prohibit all marriage in his empire. Only a priest named Valentin de Terni took the risk of defying these orders and continued in secret to unite the lovers in marriage. When the Roman emperor learned of this transgression, he ordered his execution.
According to legend, it was poor Valentine who lost his life in the name of love and was canonized by the pope in 498. He is celebrated on February 14, together with three other holy martyrs named Valentine. It wasn't until 1496 that Pope Alexander VI officially made Valentine of Terni the patron saint of lovers.
Valentine's Day and Lupercales: Pagan Origins
It is no coincidence that so many Christian festivals have been established on dates that already hosted other celebrations. The passage of the Lupercales to Valentine's Day is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon.
Even before the formation of Rome, a pagan feast named Lupercales was celebrated in honor of the god Faunus. In Roman mythology, Faunus was the god of rural lands (fields, meadows, forests...). These festivities, which took place from February 13th to 15th around Mount Palatine, were intended to bring purification and fertility to the people. In order to achieve this, the pagans undertook various rituals to encourage reproduction, between sacrifices and unrestrained races punctuated by the beatings of thongs that were supposed to encourage pregnancies among young girls.
At the advent of the Christian religion, these rituals appeared scabrous, to say the least, and the story goes that Julius Caesar tried to change the shape of this feast to make it more in line with the monotheistic society, in vain. Until, in 494, Pope Gelasius I put a definitive end to this tradition. To replace this feast at the beginning of the year, he decided to make February 14 the day of celebration of St. Valentine's Day, which did not completely abandon the connotation of union and fecundity that characterized the pagan feast.
So does this mean that the Romans were already exchanging velvet kisses on the 14th of February? How did we go from pagan sacrifices to red roses and words of love?
The festival of the lovebirds
If history already hinted at a romantic future for this winter day, it is in the writings of medieval England that we find the first mentions of Valentine's Day in direct connection with love. It is by going through documents from the 14th century that we can trace the meaning of this myth according to English poets.
Indeed, February 14th would be none other than the beginning of the love season for birds. Thus, all begin to sing and perform their courtship parade in order to seduce a partner and perhaps form a couple of "lovebirds", the equivalent of what the French call "tourtereaux" (lovebirds). This natural phenomenon combined with the historical elements of this date contribute, year after year, to build the set of beliefs and customs that surround Valentine's Day as it is today.
Nowadays, Valentine's Day is a true institution that couples take advantage of to double their attention to each other, and especially, to take the time to prove their love to each other. It is a special day for wedding proposals, pregnancy announcements and comet plans. Thousands of cards and gifts are sent all over the world; red roses - emblems of passionate love - cover florists' storefronts; macarons and chocolates, generous, delicate and sensual delicacies, are offered and enjoyed among loved ones without moderation.
To honor this tradition and offer a moment of refined pleasure to your partner on this special occasion, discover our special selection of gift ideas for Valentine's Day.