Sun. Feb 28th, 2021

The origin of Valentine’s Day and how it evolved over the years

It’s that time of the year, folks. When the stores turn pink and hearts are floating everywhere.

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If you need some last minute budget ideas to spoil the love of your love, we compiled this handy guide. Joburgers, there’s a list over here of fun stuff to do today. Work around load shedding, you can do it.

If you want to spend the evening just Netflix and chilling at home, we even compiled a list of movies. Don’t forget the blanket fort and popcorn, hey.

If you’re single on Valentine’s Day, or just can’t stand the hype that goes along with it, remember: It could always be worse. The OG of the day, St. Valentine himself, was executed on this day, 2 287 years ago.

Who was St Valentine

St Valentine was a priest from Rome who lived during the third century AD. Back then, marriage was banned because Emperor Claudius II believed that married men made for weak soldiers.

Valentine, ever the romantic, was having none of that, and arranged marriages in secret. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out so well for him when the Emperor found out.

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A drawing depicts the death of St. Valentine — one of them, anyway. The Romans executed two men by that name on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He was arrested and sentenced to death. The poor dude then fell in love with the jailer’s daughter while he was in prison, but love didn’t save him this time around.

He was executed on 14 February 269 AD and the last letter sent to his love with singed “From your Valentine.” Now you know. Tragedy with a dash of romance.

Rumour has it that Emperor Claudius II executed a second man named Valentine, also on February 14, a few years later.

And that dude with the arrows?

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Edme Bouchardon, Cupid, 1744, National Gallery of Art. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Cupid is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection, and also goes by the Latin name Amor. No, not that Amor.

In Greek mythology, he is known as Eros, and is portrayed as a winged creature – chubbiness optional – usually with a bow and arrow, hence the saying “struck by Cupid’s arrow.”

When was Valentine’s Day first celebrated?

A very long time ago… The first Valentine’s Day was celebrated in the year 496, during a Roman festival called Lupercalia. It was the official start of springtime.

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Festivities Lupercales, oil on canvas. Museo Del Prado, Madrid. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Andrea Camassei

Even back then, men would draw women’s names from a box and would be “boyfriend and girlfriend” for the duration of the festival. Sometimes they even ended up getting married.

Other activities included the sacrifice of a goat and a dog. For balance, the men whipped the women with the hides of the slaughtered animals, believing it would make them fertile. Fun times… Some of us have been to that party, I assume.

Lupercalia is not to be confused with Galatin’s Day, a festival celebrated by the Normans around the same time. Galatin means “lover of women,” so hey, that fits with the theme too.

And then, Shakespeare

Or Willem Wikkelspies, as I like to refer to him, truly romanticised the holiday and pretty much made it famous throughout Europe. This was around the same time that Valentine’s Day cards became a trendy thing.

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Image credit: Envato Elements

Early 1900’s

The card craze really took off around this time, with the Hallmark Cards of Kansas City dominating the market. One could say this was the start of Valentine’s Day losing its true meaning and went down the consumerism path.

It really is a big industry today, and Valentine’s Day exceeded $17 billion worldwide in sales during 2018. We’re looking at a projected $18.6 billion in sales this year, according to the NPR.

Watch: How saying “I love you” changed throughout the years:

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