The History of Valentine’s Day

The History of Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day is a day to show your love and spread some joy, but it’s not how it started. This holiday has deep rooted pagan traditions that many don’t recognize or even know about. So here is a quick history lesson.

There are many theories as to why Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of February. Some think it is to honor the death/burial of St. Valentine. Others theorize that the date was meant to “Christianize” the pagan holiday Lupercalia. Lupercalia, celebrated February 15th, is a holiday dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus. It is a festival of fertility. 

Lupercalia begins when a group of Roman priests, called the Luperci, gather at the sacred cave. The cave is said to be where Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were cared for by Lupa. There would be sacrifice: a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. The hide of the goat would be taken back, as they would gently slap women and crop fields with it. The women believed that it would make them fertile in the upcoming year. Later, all young women’s names are placed in an urn. Then the men would choose a name, being paired with that woman for the upcoming year. These pairings frequently ended in marriage. 

While Lupercalia was still celebrated during the initial emergence of Christianity, it was swiftly outlawed. By the end of the fifth century, February 14th was declared St. Valentine’s Day. While it was first celebrated as a romantic holiday in 1375, the first known Valentine wasn’t composed until 1415. It was a poem from an imprisoned Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife.

Modern Valentine’s Day  Celebrations

Although the celebration of Valentine’s day has changed over the course of many years, it is still a holiday recognized worldwide.  Nowadays Valentine’s day is a more romantic holiday, rather than focus on fertility, as it used to be in the past. The transition seemed to have happened during the middle ages in France and England, because mid-February was the beginning of the bird’s mating season which made the idea that Valentine’s day should be for romance.

Also in “The History of Valentine’s Day” on it states that, “In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century”. By the middle of the 18th century, it was way more common for lovers to exchange small gifts of affection, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace handwritten letters. 

 In the article Valentines day on American English it explains that, “Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day each year on February 14th by sending cards or letters, giving gifts such as chocolate or flowers, and having meals in restaurants. Many adults see Valentine’s Day as an occasion to offer expensive gifts such as jewelry to their sweetheart”.