Treat Your Valentine to the Feast of Lupercalia

The exact origins of Valentine’s Day are murky, according to the Library of Congress. Cynics say it was created by greeting card and candy companies. But in fact the day may have its roots in more ancient traditions.

Ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia, a spring festival, on the fifteenth of February.

Like so many holidays, a Christian gloss was added to the pagan fete when the holiday moved to the fourteenth of February—the saint day associated with several early Christian martyrs named Valentine.

The romance we associate with Valentine’s Day may spring from the medieval belief that birds select their mates on February 14. During the Middle Ages, lovers recited verse or prose to one another in honor of the day.

The Nuremberg Chronicle (published in 1493) is believed to contain the first in-print mention of Saint Valentine, though his role as patron saint of lovers was not mentioned.

However it began, the modern holiday has become big business.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the value of the chocolate sold for Valentine’s Day is $16.1 billion. Jewelry and silverware sales total $6.5 billion. That’s a whole lot of love.

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