Each year on February 14th, many people exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special “valentine.” The day of romance we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century, but has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia.
Who is Cupid?
The mention of Cupid typically conjures up images of a cherubic winged infant wielding a bow and arrow, but this wasn’t always the case. Long before the Romans adopted and renamed him, Cupid was known to the Greeks as Eros, the god of love.
Armed with a bow and a quiver filled with both golden arrows to arouse desire and leaden arrows to ignite aversion, Eros struck at the hearts of gods and mortals and played with their emotions. In one story from ancient Greek mythology, which was later retold by Roman authors, Cupid (Eros) shot a golden arrow at Apollo, who fell madly in love with the nymph Daphne, but then launched a leaden arrow at Daphne so she would be repulsed by him. In another allegory, Cupid’s mother, Venus (Aphrodite), became so jealous of the beautiful mortal Psyche that she told her son to induce Psyche to fall in love with a monster. Instead, Cupid became so enamored with Psyche that he married her—with the condition that she could never see his face. Eventually, Psyche’s curiosity got the better of her and she stole a glance, causing Cupid to flee in anger. After roaming the known world in search of her lover, Psyche was eventually reunited with Cupid and granted the gift of immortality.
It was at one time the custom in England for people to call out, "Good-morning, 'tis St. Valentine's Day!' and the one who succeeded in saying this first expected a present from the one to whom it was said, so this made things pretty lively on St. Valentine's Day.
O, I wish I were a tiny brown bird from out the south, Settled among the alder-holt
and twittering by the stream ; I would put my tiny tail down,
and put up my tiny mouth,
And sing my tiny life away in one melodious dream. I would sing about the blossoms,
and the sunshine and the And the tiny wife I mean to have in such a cosy nest;
And if someone came and shot me dead, why then I could but die,
With my tiny life and tiny song just ended at their best.
...To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.