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Valentine's Day: Mythology, eros, the cupid, love, the history, and the facts about the holiday is here. Love is blind.

Updated on May 27, 2014

History Of Valentine's Day

Love is in the air, and spring is here. It has been known for many centuries that Valentine's Day is considered to be the most romantic time of the year. However, why is that so? What's so special about it? I mean it's only one day, so why should it be any more special than any other day? However, I digress. Over the years, February 14 has become the one day of the year, where romance springs around all over the globe. To uncover this mystery, I feel it's important to look at our earlier history to examine why this holiday so prestigious to our modern culture today.

According to one legend, in third century Rome, Emperor Claudius II came to the theory that single men made better soldiers than married ones. Therefore, he outlawed marriages for young men, that were deemed to make potentially good soldiers, and only allowed elderly men to marry. Seeing the unfair and injustice of this new law, St. Valentine defied this law and continued performing marital rituals for young lovers in secret. Needless to say, this angered Emperor Claudius II once he found out, and ordered to have St. Valentine put to death.

Although other historians believe, that St. Valentine might have been killed while aiding Christians from escaping the torture and harsh treatments of Roman prisons.

While some historians have often debated this theory as to how St. Valentine died, what is certain that the mystique and romance behind the holiday continues to intensify the world to this day.

In another legend, it's said that St. Valentine actually conjured and sent the first "valentine" greeting card, while he was in prison. During his stay in prison, he met a young girl, whom would often visit him during his sentence. Some historians believe she may have been the jailor's daughter. Before he was sentenced to be executed, he allegedly sent her a farewell letter with the final words being, "from your valentine." Since then the name Valentine has become the word most often associated with various forms of eroticism and romance over the years. Each culture giving their own unique tastes on the legend, as the mystery of St. Valentine still continues to inspire the hearts of many lovers even to this day.

To answer why February 14 be deemed under his name? There has been many historians whom have debated that as well. Some widely believe that it's celebrated in mid-February to honor his death or burial, which is estimated to have occurred around 270 A.D. Other historians believe that it might have been an attempt to christianize the pagan Lupercalia festival.

In ancient Rome, springtime marked the beginning of purification. Houses were thoroughly swept, as the Romans would sprinkle salt and spelt, a special type of wheat, throughout their interiors. The Lupercalia festival was held on February 15, which was considered a fertility festival dedicated to Faunas, the Roman God of Agriculture, and the Roman founders, Romulus and Remus.

Members of Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would begin the festival by gathering at a sacred cave where it's believed Romulus and Remus were cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. Priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.

Then they would slice the goat's hide into strips, and dipped them into sacrificial blood as they took to the streets. Gently slapping women and fields of crops with goathide strips. As repulsive and vile as this may sound, women back then welcomed being slapped with bloody goathides as it was believed that it would make them more fertile during the coming year. It's then said that women would put their names in a big urn, later on in the day. The men would then pick a name out of the urn, and would become paired with the chosen woman for a year; often ending in marriage.

It wasn't until later around 498 A.D., that Pope Gelasius declared february 14, Valentine's Day. The Roman lottery system was then deemed unchristian and outlawed, as Christianity began to take over as the dominant religion, in Rome. In other countries such as England and France, February 14 was also the first day of the birds mating season, which added to the idea of romance during the holiday.

According to history, the oldest Valentine letter was in the form of a poem by Charles, Duke of Orleans. He wrote a letter to his wife during his imprisonment, in the Tower of London, after being apprehended at the Battle of Agincourt. Written in 1415, the greeting is part of the manuscript collection within the British Library in London, England.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day became a lot more popular during the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century, it became common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed generic greeting cards replaced handwritten ones, due to improvements in printing technology. This of course made it easier for people to express themselves, in a time when direct emotions were discouraged in society. Plus, the cheaper postage rates also encourage the mailing of Valentine Greeting Cards. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began the first mass-produced valentines in America.

As of right now, it's estimated that over one billion valentines cards are mailed off each year. Hence, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year; falling second only to Christmas which has an average of 2.6 billion cards per year.

Surprisingly, statistics show that 85 percent of valentines are purchased by women. Valentine's Day is celebrated in many countries throughout the world. Valentines greetings were always popular dating back to the middle ages. The first written valentines were non existent until after 1400, at least as far as we've uncovered. The first commercialized valentine's day cards were produced in the United States, in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Her unique card designs using ribbons, real lace, and colorful pictures (known as scrap), earned her the nickname "Mother of the Valentine."

To this day all over the world, society continues to exchange gifts and affections on valentine's day. Yet the true history or the meaning behind it is often shrouded in mystery. A holiday that mixes a bit of Roman and Christian traditions, as it promotes the time of romance and love. Today, the Catholic Church recognizes three saints named Valentine or Valentinus. However, what gives the name such ancient rite to the holiday? We may never know for sure as historians have been debating that for years. However, what is certain is that Valentine's Day has become not only deep and rich with tradition, but it's one of the few traditions most of the world openly embraces.

The Myth Of Valentine's Day

For those who don't know about cupid, it's often said that he has become the very symbol of love.  Especially when it comes to Valentine's Day.  Yet why is that?  How did a naked baby, with a bow and arrow, become a symbol for Valentine's Day?  

According to Greek mythology, Eros, was the son of Venus, goddess of love.  Hence, how the word erotic became into fruition as Eros was quite a sex symbol back in those days.  Plus, he wasn't always portrayed as a baby.  In fact, according to Greek mythology he was allegedly portrayed as a very handsome and charismatic man.  A man that was so charming, that he could easily make both gods and humans fall in love.  Even his trademark arrows have been around forever, as it's said according to legend, that the gold arrows could cause anyone to fall in love with the first person they saw.  Where as his lead ones, could easily make the person hate the first person they saw. 

In one famous story, Eros, was cited shooting a gold arrow at the sun god, Apollo, whom fell in love with a nymph named Daphne.  However, as part of a cruel joke, he shot Daphne with a lead arrow, that made her detest Apollo severely; despite his affections.  Indeed, Cupid has been portrayed as mischievous over the years.  Often being depicted wearing a blindfold in later illustrations, to coin the term, "love is blind." 

In another legend, Eros became victim to his own arrow as his mother, Venus, grew jealous of a mortal named Psyche.  Therefore, she sends her son out to make Psyche fall in love with a hideously disfigured creature, but he gets pricked by his own arrow.  Thus, falling madly in love with her.  However, this is just one of the many legends foretold about cupid over the years. 

The ancient Romans were the first to rename Eros, to Cupid.  It wasn't until around the Renaissance era, that artists starting to give Cupid a more child like appearance with images they phrased as "putti."  By the time, valentine greeting cards started to use the pictures of baby cupid, the image became stuck in the minds of modern mythology as society now associates him with the Valentine holiday. 

Indeed, cupid has now been used as the symbol to represent love in today's modern culture.  Not only to display how love can come in all shapes and sizes, but you can even see him portrayed with a blindfold, as many like to say love is blind. 

Over The Years, These Countries Have Been Known To Be The Most Romantic In The World

Paris, France
Paris, France
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy

The Actual Video Doesn't Start Until 15 Seconds Going Into The Video.


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    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 3 years ago

      hmm thanks for the advice. ill see about updating this hub then with some more pics. thanks for stopping by.

    • etaCarinae profile image

      Sara Johnson 3 years ago from United States

      These are some really quite lovely images representing Valentine's Day. Great job - although the upper text near the beginning could use images too!

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 8 years ago

      Your welcome. I'm really glad you liked the hub. I can't wait to read yours too. :)

    • profile image

      sophs 8 years ago

      Ohhhhh A Whole New World I love that song and the scene! Such a romantic film :) Love this hub Steve, great stuff I didn't realise valentines day could be so interesting! You have inspired me to create a hub of my favourite love songs. Thankyooouuu! :)

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 8 years ago

      Yeah, who knew? Then again, their represented by possibly the longest romantic relationship ever created for two cartoon characters, with Mickey and Minnie. Lol. Anyway, thanks again ann for stopping by, and I hope I gave you a bit more information about the holiday to discuss with her tomorrow. In case, I don't see you Ann, I hope you have a great valentine's day.

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 8 years ago from Virginia

      Very interesting hub....I never realized Disney was so romantic!

      I was just 'discussing' with my dear mother today the history of Valentine’s Day and must admit to my shame that I was a little gray on some areas. Tomorrow I can resume the conversation. Thanks, Steven, for another great hub!!!

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 8 years ago

      Thanks habee.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Great read! Very comprehensive.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 8 years ago

      Thanks Jewshavemorefun. I appreciate the compliment. I tried to find the full version of that clip of "say anything", but most of it was either redubbed with a rap song or it didn't have audio. therefore, i was lucky to find even that one. lol. however, i'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Jewshavemorefun profile image

      Jewshavemorefun 8 years ago

      hi just wanted to say that was really quite interesting. I liked the clip of say anything at the end :)i love john cusack, one of my friends actually woke me up that way on my birthday except he held up a stereo playing don't you forget about me by simple minds(him and I are both John Hughes geeks)anyways good hub :)

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 8 years ago

      thanks for the compliment janiek.

    • janiek13 profile image

      Mary Krenz 8 years ago from Florida's Space Coast

      Good history lesson.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 8 years ago

      @Tina V

      thanks tina, i'm glad you liked the article.


      Wow, sorry to hear that. Well you could always record the Nascar 500, and watch it after you get home. Or maybe you should buy tickets to it, and make it part of your date with your girl friend and go out for dinner with her before or afterwards.

    • TINA V profile image

      TINA V 8 years ago

      Although Valentine's Day is a working holiday, it is one of the widely celebrated event over the years. You have shared good information about this special day. You have also posted nice photos and videos.

    • cojaqmarketing profile image

      cojaqmarketing 8 years ago from Carmel, Indiana

      What do I do Steven? The Daytona 500 is on Valentines Day and I'm a huge NASCAR nut!! How do I incorporate that with doing something special for my girlfriend?


    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 8 years ago

      Thanks Dave. Glad you liked the hub. Yeah, to be honest, I didn't know a lot of this stuff either before I researched it. However, it's kind of amazing how Valentine's Day evolved over the years.

    • dave272727 profile image

      dave272727 8 years ago from Kentucky

      Excellent stuff Steve!!! I had no idea about some of the historical facts you presented here. This is really good stuff!