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Last updateWed, 18 Sep 2019 12pm

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The History of the Day of Hearts

Origins of Popular Valentine’s Day Traditions


History Day HeartsThe lights slowly dim, people have only eyes for one another, and murmurings of sweet nothings can be heard as candles in candelabras are lit and the purring of soft music sets the atmosphere around them.

This can only mean one thing: Valentine’s Day is making its annual appearance. Every cliché regarding love and the expectation of love circulates around this day adored by many, and abhorred by more still.

What is it exactly that makes Valentine’s Day so romantic, so couple centric? Or rather still, what makes it so dreaded? Not many may know that the origin of this day goes back centuries and was only recently that it became affiliated with all things X’s and O’s.

The small multi colored candy hearts bestowing its recipient with sweet words of affection and warm fuzzy feelings would be interested to know that Valentine’s Day is based upon the legend of St. Valentine, which dates back all the way to the third century. Though not much is known about St. Valentine, one legend has it that he secretly wed lovebirds unbeknown to the emperor who had outlawed marriage for young men who were more fit to fight in battle with no strings attached than to be wed till death do them part.

When he was found out, St. Valentine was ordered to be executed. Another popular legend is that St. Valentine was killed for attempting to aid Christians flee prison, according to history.com. 

Pertaining to the latter, practitioner s of Christianity were quite often subject to persecution and prejudice.

Dr. Kenneth Campbell, history professor, said, “The fear was that Christians worshiped only their god and not the emperor and that their emphasis on the afterlife would diminish people's commitment to the Roman state.”

And in this time, many martyrs, including St. Valentine, sacrificed themselves for their beliefs.

“There were many martyrs who did die for their faith, and yes, trying to convert an emperor would make many enemies among those who were still committed to preserving Roman paganism or who just feared the growing influence of the Christian,” Campbell said. 

This in many aspects is why St. Valentine is so closely associated with love, because he was viewed as a very romantic and compassionate individual. As anyone who giddily awaits lifting the intertwined lace laden covers of heart shape boxes filled to the brim with promises of scrumptious deliciousness should know that it was not until the eighteenth century that many of the common features of modern Valentine’s Day emerged. It was not always teddy bears and candy that this holiday was about.   

One attribute of love, which Valentine’s Day greatly centers itself on, is that of the meanings of flowers. What this entitles is that each f lower has its own meaning unlike all the rest.

The red rose, which is commonly given on this day, symbolizes love. In actuality, there are numerous different types and colors of roses.

According to language of flowers.com, the pink rose symbolizes happiness, whereas the white rose can mean youthfulness or innocence. This meaning of flowers was extremely popular in Victorian times when young men and women courted. 

 The placement of Valentine’s Day in February is also interesting to look into.

“This is perhaps most necessary in the middle of winter. February can be pretty bleak and seem like a long month, even though it is the shortest month. In some way, I think that Valentine's Day helps by providing a reason to celebrate with a special dinner or roman tic evening during the long, cold months between Christmas and spring,” Dr. Campbell said.

 So what is it about Valen tine’s Day that makes people’s eyes pop, their manner change in an all-encompassing way? “It’s a time to celebrate love and the special person or persons in your life. The importance of caring about someone,” Brittany Diamond, senior, said.

The history of this day though is not forgotten. “It is more about the historical significance and how it has become what it is today. You need to be able to know the past to appreciate the present,” Alyssa Costello, senior, said.

 So this Valentine’s Day, grab those Hallmark Valentine’s Day cards and stock up on those heart shaped boxes, for love is in the air and Cupid is aimed  and ready to shoot you next. From the poem “Sacred Emily” by Gertrude Stein, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”

PHOTO COURTESY of breviary.net

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