Whether you love Valentine’s Day or hate it, one thing’s clear: Valentine’s Day history goes way back. And while Valentine’s Day is now known for kissing, candy hearts, and hard-to-get dinner reservations, the origins of the holiday are far less romantic. Here, the Valentine’s Day history that wouldn’t make it into a romcom, including a saint, a massacre, and even sinful nuns of Valentine’s Day (seriously!). This is everything you need to know about the real origins behind the February 14th holiday.
How Did Valentine’s Day Start?
Valentine’s Day is a fixed day on the calendar (be sure to tell that to the next person who asks what day is Valentine’s Day) and the ancient Roman calendar included a mid-February holiday even before Saint Valentine’s time. That holiday, called Lupercalia, celebrated fertility, and may have included a ritual in which men and women were paired off by choosing names from a jar. Across the region, in Ancient Greece, that culture observed a mid-winter celebration for the marriage of the god Zeus and the goddess Hera. Some historians wonder if these traditions may have influenced the way we now celebrate February 14.
Who Was Saint Valentine?
Who was Saint Valentine, exactly, and what does he have to do with chocolate hearts? Not much, it turns out. Saint Valentine’s Day was a feast day in the Catholic religion, added to the liturgical calendar around 500 AD. The day was commemorated for two martyred roman priests named—you guessed it—Valentine. However, very little was known about these two priests, and, because there were conflicting reports on the Saint Valentine Day story, the feast day was removed from the Christian liturgical calendar in 1969.
But even though not much is known about the real history of the two Saint Valentines on which the holiday is based, the legend of Saint Valentine has several tellings. One legend says that Saint Valentine refused to convert to paganism and was executed by Roman Emperor Claudius II. Prior to his death, he was able to miraculously heal the daughter of his jailer, who then converted to Christianity along with his family.
But according to others—and this is how Saint Valentine became affiliated with a love-focused holiday—Saint Valentine was a Roman priest who performed weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry, because of an Roman emperor edict decreeing married soldiers did not make good warriors. He wore a ring with a Cupid on it—a symbol of love—which helped soldiers recognize him. And, in a precursor to greeting cards, he handed out paper hearts to remind Christians of their love for God.
Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Chaucer’s time in the middle ages was the era of courtly love, when broad, romantic statement of love—poems, songs, paintings—celebrated partnership. By the end of the 15th century, the word “valentine” was being used to describe a lover in poems and songs of the day, and in the 18th century, a book called The Young Man’s Valentine Writer was published in England. By the mid 19th century, mass-produced paper Valentine’s Cards were being created, and Valentine’s Day as we know it was born.
Amethyst is purple quartz and is a beautiful blend of violet and red that can be found in every corner of the earth. The name comes from the Ancient Greek, derived from the word “methustos,” which means “intoxicated.” Ancient wearers believed the gemstone could protect them from drunkenness.
Amethyst, as previously mentioned, is composed of quartz, which is the second most abundant material found in the Earth’s crust. Amethyst gets its color from irradiation, iron impurities and the presence of trace elements. Its hardness (a 7 on the Mohs scale) is the same as other quartz, which makes it a durable and lasting option for jewelry.
While amethyst is most commonly recognized to be a purple color, the gemstone can actually range from a light pinkish violet to a deep purple that can read more blue or red, depending on the light. Sometimes, even the same stone can have layers or color variants, so the way the gemstone is cut is important to the way the color shows in a finished piece.
Amethyst often occurs in geodes or in the cavities of granitic rocks. It can be found all over the world, including the United States, Canada Brazil and Zambia.
The amethyst is not only the February birthstone, it is also used to celebrate the 6th and 17th year of marriage.