In recent history, Valentine’s Day has been synonymous with love and affection; however, there was originally a different meaning behind the day.
Earlier records of the holiday are not definitively known. Most of the history is legend, but some recollections can be interpreted as factual.
“The two [people] that are most associated with Valentine’s Day are two St. Valentines who died sometime in the third century. They were martyrs,” said Dr. Kristi DiClemente, assistant professor of history at Mississippi University for Women. “They were known for healing people and for defying the Roman government.”
DiClemente also mentioned the holiday being connected to Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival that took place on Feb. 15.
People believed the beginning of spring was a rebirth of life. Birds searched for mates in February in order to have young during the warm months. Naturally, humans mimicked the practice by coming together for Lupercalia. However, Pope Galesius I renamed the feast after St. Valentine to dispel pagan rituals.
The notion of modern Valentine’s Day surfaced around the Victorian Era. Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, mentioned romantic love in his poem “The Parlement of Foules.” Afterward, many people associated the holiday with lovers and expressing affection.
Valentine’s Day has always symbolized new life, but now it is also a day to be in love.