What is Valentine’s Day anyway?

     Every January, we usher out sparklers and clear New Year’s merchandise from drug store aisles, painting them pink and red instead. Hearts are the theme of January and February, stores urge consumers to embrace the romance of Valentine’s Day. But, what exactly is this holiday, and where does it come from?

    Valentine’s Day, which has been celebrated in some form or another since the 5th century, is named after St. Valentine, but there are multiple versions of the origin story.

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     Some believe that the holiday comes from the story of the martyred St. Valentine, who married lovers in secret after the Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed the marriage of young people because he believed that unmarried young men made better soldiers. As sweet as the gesture was, Valentine was sentenced to execution when his actions were discovered. Probably not the Rom-Com ending you were expecting.

     Though that story is a likely contender for the roots of the holiday, it isn’t the only one. The Catholic religion recognizes three St. Valentine’s, all of whom were martyred, and all of whom have rumored ties to love.

     Other historians believe that Valentine’s day originated from the feast of Lupercalia, an ancient Roman event in February that involved animal sacrifice and a matchmaking lottery, where men would pull a woman’s name from a jar and find a date for the evening. This is not necessarily the pinnacle of romance, but still could be a possible inspiration for the Valentine’s Day we celebrate today.

     Fast forward to the 21st century, and Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest commercial jackpots of the year. It is a day all about love and relationships, deemed the most romantic of the year, but it means different things to different people.

    Junior Lily Marcheschi said that Valentine’s Day has never made much sense to her.

     “I’m not really a romantic person, so all of the mushy stuff doesn’t seem like my idea of a good time,” she said.

     To people like Marcheschi, Valentine’s Day is only an opportunity to get discounts on chocolate, and a reminder of all of things they don’t like about overtly romantic activities.

     Others, like junior Melissa Milligan, consider themselves to be more romantic. Milligan and her boyfriend of over one year, fellow junior Andrew Battat, plan on having a picnic and getting ice cream.

     “It’s nice because I’m in a relationship, but it is kind of a Hallmark holiday. Either way, any time I get to spend with Andrew is my idea of a good time,” Milligan said.

     So whether you plan on a romantic date or just hanging out with your friends, Valentine’s Day is what you make of it, even if it dates back to a 5th century Saint.

Posted on February 14, 2016 .