Who was Saint Valentine and why do we celebrate Valentine's Day?

A day some people dread while other adore, Valentine’s Day has undeniably become an important date in the diary for those looking to celebrate their love.

Whether its a candle lit dinner, a quiet romantic night in or a hastily bought bouquet of petrol station flowers – each courting couple has their unique spin on the day.

Alternatively, many untouched by Cupid’s Bow bemoan the 14th of February’s rampant commercialism.

Whichever side of the romantic fence you fall, there is no denying Valentine’s Day is big business.

Annually, around £1.3 billion is spent yearly on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts, with an estimated 25 million cards being sent.

Who was Saint Valentine?

Saint Valentine was a Roman priest and physician who became a Christian martyr.

He was beheaded during the persecution of Christians by the emperor Claudias II Gothicus around 270 AD. Unlike many saints, Valentine’s story is backed by some historical accounts.

According to legend, his association with love began after he allegedly defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war.

He also is rumored to have signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and healed from blindness.

Valentine is the patron saint of lovers, epileptics and beekeepers.

Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?

The origins of Valentine’s Day come appear to have been a result of the Roman fertility feast of Lupercalia and the commemoration of Valentine’s death on the 14th, combining.

Lupercalia started in the third century BC and was celebrated from 13 February to 15 February. It saw animals sacrificed, while women were whipped with hides as it was believed that this will make them fertile.

During the festival, a matchmaking lottery would also be carried out and individuals would couple up with that person for the duration of the festival, or even longer.

Through the centuries, these celebrations have evolved into what we now know as modern Valentine’s Day.

In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius I established the annual Feast of Saint Valentine – over 200 years after his death.

Around the 14th century when the notion of courtly love and romanticism began to flourish, the day started to become more widely celebrated in many European countries.

In the 18th century, the day really took off into what we would recognize as Valentine’s Day. Lovers began presenting each other with handwritten cards or notes, gifts, flowers and sweet confectionery.

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