Every Valentine's Day, all we see are cutesy couple posts on Facebook and single people complaining that no one will ever love them. But nobody stops to think about where Valentine's Day gets its name, or why it's associated with love in the first place. After all, Valentine's Day was named for a man; it is no mistake that the apostrophe designates possession. Most people know that there was a St. Valentine, but the awareness usually stops there. I decided to dig into the real history of Valentine's Day and figure out just why a saint's holiday came to be associated with candy hearts and sexy lingerie. And why the hell this romantic holiday takes place in the frigid winter.
Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to associate St. Valentine's Day with romantic love, because he wrote a poem about birds mating on said holiday. However, this poem was written to honor the marriage of King Richard II, which took place on May 2nd...right around mating season in England. So as it turns out, Geoffrey Chaucer, who started the whole Feb 14th romantic love Valentine's Day thing, might have actually been talking about the feast of St. Valentine of Genoa, which was on May 3rd, again, much closer to actual mating season. Totally different thing. Valentine's Day as we know it might only be a thing because people got the dates mixed up!
What should we be celebrating in mid February then? Well, the St. Valentine of February 14th fame was actually pretty cool. Though there is very little concrete history, the legend/myth/story of St. Valentine was persecuted for being a Christian in ancient Rome. He refused to deny Christ to the emperor Claudius II and was subsequently executed. OKAY. But before being sentenced to death, he gave sight to his jailer's blind daughter, converting their whole household to Christianity. Including servants, 44 people were baptized that day. So Christians could actually be celebrating a miracle, and the spread of their religion.
This honestly feels like it should be a religious article, and this is the part where I am supposed to tell you that Jesus is your Valentine, but I'm just a big fat atheist who is fascinated by the ways this holiday has changed. So go tell the people you love that you love them, whether that's God, your significant other, your friends, your cat, or all of the above! And eat some candy!
*Disclaimer: All of this information came from the Wikipedia pages on Valentine's Day and St. Valentine.