The commemoration of the Valentine’s Day comes from a festival that was held annually by the Roman people, before the birth of Christ, called Lupercalia.
The festival was held on 14 February and 15 February to celebrate the end of the Roman year (which began in March), to mark the official beginning of spring and to pay homage to the goddess Juno (wife of Jupiter and queen of the gods) and the god Pan God of nature).
Among the various rituals performed at Lupercalia, the most important was the fertility rally, where priests roamed the city beating women with goat leather straps to ensure they would bear children. The feast also served to scare away evil spirits and purify the city, and had as characteristic the lust that we see today during the Carnival.
Christian Valentine’s Day
As with many pagan celebrations, in 494 AD the Church banned the festival and “Christianized” it, declaring February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day.
Valentim was a bishop who lived during the rule of the Roman Emperor Claudius II, who persecuted Christians for believing that the belief in a single God disrespected the Roman gods (beyond, of course, the fear of losing his almost divine power).
Claudius II forbade Roman soldiers to marry, to prevent homesickness from damaging his performance in battle. However, Bishop Valentim continued to celebrate hidden marriages and spread Christianity. So he was arrested and sentenced to death.
Legend has it that Valentine fell in love with the daughter of the prison guard, who took her meals daily. On the day of his execution (February 14, 269 AD), he would have said farewell to the girl – who was blind – with a letter, in which he had signed “his eternal Valentine.” Upon receiving the letter, she would have regained her sight. The phrase is still printed on Valentine’s Day cards.
The custom of exchanging greeting cards and gifts came in the late Middle Ages when romantic love came into fashion and fell into popular tastes.