Valentine’s Day, also referred to as St. Valentine’s Day, is quite the celebration in the United States. Millions of dollars are spent annually on flowers, candy and other gifts. This holiday is also celebrated in many countries, such as Canada, Australia, Denmark, France, and Japan. So, why a holiday about love? The search for an answer explores the history, mystery and intrigue of Valentine’s Day—then and now.
The holiday dates back to ancient Rome and the pagan, fertility festival Lupercalia. This festival was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and Roman founders Romulus and Remus. The hides of animals sacrificed during the festival were dipped in blood and both crops and women were slapped with the blood-soaked hides, which were believed to increase fertility. Women would then place their names in an urn from which bachelor’s drew, to become paired for a year, often ending in marriage.
But where does St. Valentine come into the picture? Even today, that’s a bit of a mystery.
Three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred, are recognized by the Catholic Church. One of these Valentines was a third-century Roman priest who defied a decree of Emperor Claudius II that outlawed marriage for young men—whom he believed were better soldiers than fathers and husbands. Valentine continued performing marriage ceremonies, in secret, for young lovers. Upon the discovery of his defiant and clandestine work, done in the name of love and justice, Claudius ordered him put to death.
Other accounts of Valentine suggest he was killed after attempting to help tortured Christians escape Roman prisons. Another legend credits the first Valentine greeting to an imprisoned Valentine, who prior to his execution, wrote a letter to the girl he loved and who had visited him while confined. It is alleged that the letter was signed, “From your Valentine.” His reputation as a heroic romantic made Valentine one of the most revered saints in England and France.
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Why Valentine’s Day is in February is also unclear. Some believe the date was chosen to commemorate the death or burial of St. Valentine, which occurred about A.D. 270. Another theory is that the Christian church chose mid-February for its St. Valentine feast in an attempt to “Christianize” the Lupercalia festival which was celebrated on February 15. Lupercalia was eventually outlawed, near the end of the 5th century, at which time Pope Gelasius proclaimed February 14th St. Valentine’s Day.
In the Middle Ages, St. Valentine’s Day became more closely associated with love, based on a common belief in France and England that February 14 was the start of mating season for birds. Written Valentine greetings began to appear after 1400; the oldest still in existence was written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife during his imprisonment in the Tower of London. By the 17th century, Valentine’s Day was widely celebrated in many countries and exchanges of small gifts or handwritten notes were common by the middle of the 18th century. Esther A. Howland began selling Valentine greetings in America in the 1840s. These mass-produced greetings were typically made of lace, ribbon and pictures. Advances in printing technology introduced printed cards by 1900.
Approximately 150 million cards are sent annually in the US for Valentine’s Day, second only to Christmas. A surprising $448 million is spent on candy—including 58 million pounds of chocolates—the week before February 14.
Pure Hemp Botanicals sends our love and warmest thanks to our valued customers for being part of the industrial hemp community. In honor of St. Valentine—whomever that may be—we’d like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to “Compassion in Action” and respect for all the Earth’s inhabitants. We encourage you to practice compassion as well—in your actions towards the Earth, the animals with whom we share it, and each other. Happy Valentine’s Day!