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The Entire History of Valentine’s Day

By Orgesta Tolaj


8 February 2024

history of valentine's day / Freepik

Valentine’s Day, marked by exchanging cards, chocolates, and flowers, has become one of the most widely celebrated holidays. But do you know the intriguing history behind this popular holiday? From its mysterious origins to its commercialization, the story of Valentine’s Day is filled with surprising twists and turns. This is the entire history of Valentine’s Day and how it became the holiday we celebrate today!

What Is Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is an annual holiday celebrated on February 14th. It’s a day when people express their affection and love for one another. The love is shown typically through gestures such as sending greeting cards (known as valentines), flowers, chocolates, or gifts. While the origins of Valentine’s Day are somewhat murky, it’s named after Saint Valentine, a Christian martyr from ancient Rome who is associated with acts of love and kindness.

History of Valentine's Day
© freepik

Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide as a day for romantic love and is also an opportunity for people to show appreciation for their friends and family. It’s often marked by romantic dinners, special outings, and other expressions of love and affection.

The History of Valentine’s Day

The earliest potential origin of Valentine’s Day dates back to the pagan festival of Lupercalia, which took place in the middle of February and celebrated fertility. During Lupercalia, men would strip naked and sacrifice goats and dogs. Young boys would then use strips of hide from the sacrificed animals to whip young women, believing it would promote fertility. Despite Christianity being legalized in the Roman Empire, Lupercalia remained popular and continued to be celebrated for around 150 years afterward.

When Pope Gelasius ascended to power in the late fifth century, he abolished the pagan festival of Lupercalia. Shortly thereafter, the Catholic Church designated February 14th as a day of feasts to honor the martyred Saint Valentine.

Who Is St. Valentine?

Among the multitude of saints, there are numerous Valentines and even some Valentinas, totaling over 10,800 saints. However, two Valentines are prominent contenders for the namesake saint of Valentine’s Day, although their stories do not involve matters of the heart.

Both Valentines were martyred by the Roman Emperor Claudius in the third century and are believed to have died on February 14th, albeit in different years. These include:

1st St. Valentine

The first Valentine, a priest, was arrested during the Roman persecution of Christians. Despite facing pressure to renounce his faith, he remained steadfast, even performing a miraculous healing that led to the conversion of a household. Upon learning of this, the emperor ordered Valentine’s execution.

2nd St. Valentine

The second, Bishop Valentine of Terni, was also known for his miraculous healing. He cured a scholar’s son of physical disabilities, leading to the conversion of the scholar’s family and visiting scholars. Subsequently, he was arrested, refused to renounce Christianity, and was beheaded.

Modern Times Valentine’s Day

The modern romantic associations of Valentine’s Day bear little resemblance to its earlier iterations. The true origin of Valentine’s Day, according to some accounts, emerged about a thousand years later. Professor Jack B. Oruch from the University of Kansas argues that Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to connect Valentine’s Day with romance in his poem “The Parlement of Foules.” Oruch suggests that Chaucer may have made this connection inadvertently, as Valentine’s Day coincides with the start of mating season for European birds. Subsequently, other poets such as Shakespeare furthered this romantic association, contributing to the modern perceptions of Valentine’s Day.

© freepik

What do you know about the history of Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments below!

You might also want to read: Valentine’s Day Songs to Fall in Love With This Year

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!