Valentine’s Day: Ancient Holiday or Hallmark Holiday?

Alex Garner, Contributor

Valentine’s Day has mostly been known as a day to celebrate relationships as well as another one of Hallmark’s holidays full of gifts, flowers, chocolate, and stuffed teddy bears. But are people aware of its true origins? Or has its initial importance of spreading love and appreciation been drowned out by heart-shaped goodies and materialism?

One story suggests that Valentine’s Day originated from Roman times, in which the saint, Valentinus was believed to be a martyr because he disobeyed the emperor’s law against soldiers marrying and having children. The emperor believed that the soldiers would fight better if they had no other attachments or focuses other than the battle at hand, yet Valentinus continued to marry couples. He fought for love’s survival, regardless of the potential (inevitable) repercussions of his actions. Unfortunately, these actions eventually led to his death.

Another story suggests that Valentinus helped Christians escape the brutal attacks of the Romans, but during his own confinement, he sent a letter to a girl he had fell in love with signed “From your Valentine,” marking it as the first valentine ever sent. Regardless of the differences, Valentinus has been depicted as a hero and a romantic icon. Furthermore, some have wondered why February 14th was chosen for Valentine’s Day. Many believe it was to celebrate his achievements and life’s work, yet others believe it was celebrated on that day due to the celebration of Lupercalia, which is the celebration of fertility and agriculture in order to “Christianize” the pagan holiday. Later, this holiday was also associated with love.

Regardless of all the mushy gushy ideas and gifts surrounding Valentine’s Day, it’s an important day to appreciate the love of family and friends that we have in our lives and to spread that love to others that aren’t as fortunate. With this in mind, it may be more meaningful to express this appreciation in a different way, rather than spending money on chocolate that will go stale or flowers that will die. Either way, remember that beyond the candy-coated surfaces of these holidays, there is always a story underneath.