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Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day Anyway?

We at Charlotte Dentistry® wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day! We all know how much Valentine’s Day means to us in our personal lives and as a society, but so few of us think of the man to whom the holiday owes its origins: St. Valentine. Who was he and why don’t we talk about him nearly as much as we should?

Part of it has to do with the unfortunately dark origins of Valentine’s Day, all centered around St. Valentine’s acts of love that ran contrary to the official policies of the Roman Empire around the year 270 A.D. During the reign of Claudius II, also known as Claudius the Cruel, Rome had engaged in many unpopular military campaigns that resulted in numerous casualties. As Enlistments in the Roman legions declined, Emperor Claudius II concluded that it was because Roman men had become too attached to their wives and families to join the army. To combat the problem, the emperor banned all marriages and engagements in Rome.

However, an early Christian priest named Valentine married couples in secret in direct defiance of the emperor’s orders. When Emperor Claudius learned of Valentine’s secret weddings, he sentenced Valentine to be clubbed to death and beheaded. According to legend, prior to his execution, Valentine had left a note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it “From your Valentine”, which is the direct inspiration for Valentine’s Day cards today. After his death, Valentine was officially declared a saint by the Catholic Church.

While St. Valentine’s story is tragic and influential, it should be mentioned that, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February.” As has happened with many historical figures from antiquity that have achieved legendary status, it’s possible that elements of all three St. Valentines became intertwined over the centuries as the holiday that we know today came into existence.

But just how did the holiday itself form? In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius I officially declared that February 14 become Valentine’s Day, thus merging with and putting an end to the original pagan holiday known as Feast of Lupercalia, celebrated at around the same time of year. This was a common practice in the early centuries of Christianity; as the faith spread across Europe, religious observances were set to occur at the same time as preestablished pagan holidays to better integrate Christianity into the consciousness of early pre-Christian Europeans.

It wasn’t until the 1300s that people started to associate February 14th as a romantic holiday, possibly because it marked the beginning of mating season for birds. The tradition of exchanging cards and gifts caught on in Great Britain in the 1700s and soon spread to America. Today, it is estimated that 1 billion cards, 35 million chocolates and 220 million roses will be exchanged on Valentine’s Day. It’s also estimated that 6 million couples will get engaged.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your special someone from all of us here at Charlotte Dentistry®!

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…Treat Others As You Would Have Them Treat You … Matthew 7:12