“Why Celebrate That?!” — A Valentine’s Day History

As the day of love draws nearer, we break down how everything came to be


Photo Provided

Cupid shoots arrows at people to make them fall in love

Gabrielle Rose, Sandscript Author

Most people recognize Valentine’s Day as a day with pinks, reds, and purples, as well as flowers and chocolates for loved ones, and even little Valentine Cards for students in schools.  But often, people across the world wonder, “How did a holiday like this come about?”

Valentine’s Day occurs every year on February 14th. People around the world exchange each other gifts with loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. These traditions are way back in ancient Roman rituals of Lupercalia that welcome spring to the card-giving customs of Victoria England. The history of Valentine’s Day, and the story of its patron saint, is shrouded in mystery. We know that Valentine’s Day is a day for romance, and St. Valentine’s Day contains elements of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions. 

While some believe Valentine’s Day is celebrated with romance and love, others celebrate the anniversary of St. Valentine’s death. The Christian church decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated in mid-February, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.  While the Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity, it was soon outlawed, because it was deemed “not Christian” at the end of the 5th century. This was until Pope Gelasuis declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day.  

It was not until much later that the day became a day of love. During the Middle Ages in France and England, it was common knowledge that February was the beginning of birds’ mating season.  In turn, this added to the idea that Valentine’s Day was in-fact a day for romance.  English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to record St. Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration. Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after the 1400’s. The oldest known valentine still in existence was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife who was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. Several years later, it’s believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note for Catherine of Valois.

Others think of the god of love, Cupid, whose often portrayed on Valentine’s Day cards as a naked angel-baby, who launches arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers, victims, or men. The Roman God Cupid has his roots in Greek Mythology as the Greek God of Love, Eros. Accounts of his birth vary; some say he is the son of Nyx and Erebus; others of Aphrodite and Zeus. According to Greek Archaic poets, Cupid was a handsome immortal who played with the emotions of Gods, and men. He would use golden arrows to incite love and leaden ones to sow aversion. It wasn’t until about 320 B.C. that cupid would be portrayed as a mysterious, chubby baby in a diaper.

In today’s society, Valentine’s Day has become all about giving gifts, and spending time with our special loved one. 

“Valentine’s Day is a cool day to give the person you love special treatment,” Alivia Pulsoni states, “we believe that love should be spread around everyday, but Valentine’s Day we go above and beyond in expressing your love for family, friends, and your significant other.”

Other students offered similar sentiments:

 “I feel like Valentine’s Day is a special day for people to show their love to one another through flowers and chocolates” Hadley Wild states. 

Not everyone enjoys Valentine’s Day, however.  Some folks see it as a cliche’ holiday, that doesn’t apply to all people, regardless of religious beliefs.  Some don’t have a ‘significant other’ and therefore, don’t find the same enjoyment out of Valentine’s Day, that those with someone else receive.

“I don’t like Valentine’s Day because there is too much love going around” says Damian Stanek.

All in all, Valentine’s Day is a love it or hate it holiday in our society today, but since you know now where all these traditions have come from, maybe Valentine’s Day can be a ‘love it’ holiday for you.