Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which may have you thinking about the right gift for that special someone in your life. However, have you ever stopped to think about why we celebrate Valentine’s Day in the first place? You might be surprised to learn that Valentine’s Day has roots dating back to Ancient Rome, and it wasn’t always all about flowers and chocolates.
Origins of St. Valentine
Valentine’s Day is named for St. Valentine, but it turns out that there were at least three saints in the Catholic Church to be named Valentine or Valentinus. One supposed namesake for the holiday is said to have defied the orders of Emperor Claudius II, who decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and children, so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, a priest, continued to marry young couples in secret until his actions were discovered and he was put to death. Others contend that Valentine’s Day is named after St. Valentine of Terri, who was also beheaded by Claudius II. Some legends even state that St. Valentine may have been imprisoned by the Romans and sent a greeting to a young woman he’d fallen in love with, signing it “from your Valentine.”
While the exact origins of the true St. Valentine remain up for debate, each legend offers a sense of heroic romance.
The Start of a New Holiday
Valentine’s Day traces its start as a February holiday back to Rome as well. It began as a Christianized celebration that took the place of the pagan festival Lupercalia. This festival was intended to inspire fertility in the coming year and ended with a marriage celebration wherein young women would be matched with bachelors throughout the city.
Valentine’s Day Through the Ages
By the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius officially declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day. Soon, the holiday was associated with love and romance, and Valentine’s greetings became popular as far back as the Middle Ages. Written Valentine’s greetings began to be seen around the 1400s, with the oldest known valentine still in existence today dating back to 1415. By the middle of the 18th century, it became common for friends and lovers of all social classes to celebrate the holiday with small gifts and written greetings.
If you’re seeking something special for your sweetheart, discover our selection of Valentine’s Day chocolate at Zotter Chocolate. Each of our gourmet chocolates is adorned with a beautiful, gift-worthy wrapper designed by artist Andreas H. Gratze.