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History of Valentine's Day: Who Was St. Valentine?

History of Valentine's Day: Who Was St. Valentine?

A man arranges a heart-shaped bouquet at a flower market in Islamabad, Pakistan February 14, 2017. | REUTERS/Caren Firouz

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, which means couples all around the globe will be celebrating their love together. While many associate the special day with handwritten letters, flowers and chocolates, not everyone knows the history behind this yearly occasion.

The Real St. Valentine

St. Valentine, the historical figure who inspired the holiday, may be more than just one man. Reports note that the saint recognized by the Roman Catholic Church was a real person who passed away in AD 270. He was believed to be a priest who was beheaded for by helping Christian couples get married.

Marriage was banned by the emperor at the time since he believed unmarried men made better soldiers. Valentine may also have been the Bishop of Terni, who was also killed on Claudius II's orders.

Why Valentine's Day is Celebrated Every Feb. 14

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Long before St. Valentine was executed, Feb. 14 was already associated with blood and fertility. The date between Feb. 13 and 15 was initially called the feasty of Lupercalia, which is celebrated by Romans.

They sacrifice animals such as goats and dogs and whip naked women with the hides. This tradition was done in the interest of making women more fertile. It was only stopped in the fifth century AD, when Pope Gelasius I outlawed Lupercalia and declared Feb. 14 as the feast of St. Valentine, also known as Valentine's Day.

Chaucer May Have Created Valentine's Day

The late English Prof. Jack B. Oruch from the University of Kansas believed that Geoffrey Chaucer made up the said holiday. The poet was the first one to link love to St. Valentine for the in his 14th-century works such as "Parlement of Foules" and "The Complaint of Mars." Oruch claimed that Chaucer was actually the person behind the Valentine's Day people know today.

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