Brief history of Valentine's Day

Vals History File photo

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 Source: Emmanuel Dei Nuamah

Each and every year on 14 February, many people exchange cards, candies, gifts or flowers with their special Valentine. The name of romance we call Valentine's Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century, but it has its origin in the Roman holiday called "Lupercalia"

The festival of Lupercalia was celebrated to honour the gods of Lepercus and faunus - Roman god of Agriculture besides the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

According to Roman Catholic Church tradition and RT. Bishop Osei-Bonsu, 2004 (Catholic Traditions and Believes), Valentine or Valentinus was a priest and also a Bishop of the church near Rome in about the year 270 A.D. At the time the Roman Emperor, Claudius II had issued an edict forbidding marriage.

The Roman Empire had become too large to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos with existing forces. Thus more capable men were required to be recruited as soldiers and officers. Claudius felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families and thus, would not make good soldiers. So to assure quality soldiers, he banned marriage.

Valentine or Valentinus, a bishop, seeing the trauma of young lovers, met them in a secret place, and joined them in sacrament of holy matrimony. Emperor Claudius discovered this friend of lovers, "Valentine or Valentinus" and had him arrested and executed him on 24 February, 270 A.D.

While Valentine or Valentinus was in prison waiting for his fate, he came in contact with his jailer, Asterius. The jailer had a blind daughter and he requested Valentine or Valentinus to heal her. Through his faith, his daughter miraculously restored her sight. Just before his execution, Valentine or Valentinus asked his jailer, Asterius for a pen and signed a farewell to Asterius daughter “from your Valentine" a phrase that lived ever after.

Valentine or Valentinus thus became the Patron Saint of lovers, and spiritual overseer of an annual festival of Lepercus and Faaunus. The festival involved the young Romans offering women they admired and wished to court, handwritten greetings of affection on 14 February. The greeting cards bore Saint Valentine or Valentinus name.

Around 489 A.D, Pope Gerasius declared February 14 as "Saint Valentine's Day” to honour the martyr Valentinus or Valentine and to end the pagan celebration.

Today, the festival of Valentine's Day has increased tremendously among the masses due to the combined effect all of the above said reasons. To mark "Valentine Day" of lovers began to exchange love notes called "Valentine" with their sweethearts.

In the begging the trend was to send handmade cards but this was changed in the beginning of 19th century and mass-produced greeting cards caught the fancy of the people. In the cause of time, "Valentine's Day", came to be regarded as the festival that celebrates love and not just romantic love. Today, "Valentine's Day" cards are gifted to teachers, parents, friends, siblings and sweethearts. Popularity of Valentine's Day has spread in countries across the seven (7) continents in the world and still increasing by the year.

Columnist: Emmanuel Dei Nuamah