Valentine's Day Origin

The Origins of valentine's Day

Every year, the fourteenth day of the month of February has millions across the world

presenting their loved ones with candy, flowers, chocolates and other lovely gifts. In

many countries, restaurants and eateries are seen to be filled with couples who are

eager to celebrate their relationship and the joy of their togetherness through delicious

cuisines. There hardly seems to be a young man or woman who is not keen to make the

most of the day.

Valntine's Day History

The reason behind all of this is a kindly cleric named Valentine who died more than a

thousand years ago.

It is not exactly known why the 14th of February is known as Valentine's Day or if the

noble Valentine really had any relation to this day. The history of Valentine's Day is

impossible to be obtained from any archive and the veil of centuries gone by has made

the origin behind this day more difficult to trace. It is only some legends that are our

source for the history of Valentine's Day.

The modern St. Valentine's Day celebrations are said to have been derived from both

ancient Christian and Roman tradition. As per one legend, the holiday has originated

from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalis/Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that used

to observed annually on February 15. But the rise of Christianity in Europe saw many

pagan holidays being renamed for and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs.

Lupercalia was no exception. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a

Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14. He proclaimed

February 14 to be the feast day in honor of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived

in the 3rd century. It is this St. Valentine whom the modern Valentine's Day honors.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints

by the name of Valentine. While one was a priest in Rome, another was a bishop in

Terni. Nothing is known about the third St. Valentine except that he met his end in

Africa. Surprisingly, all three of them were said to have been martyred on 14th February.

It is clear that Pope Gelasius intended to honor the first of these three aforementioned

men. Most scholars believe that this St. Valentine was a priest who lived around 270 AD

in Rome and attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II who ruled during this


The story of St. Valentine has two different versions - the Protestant and the Catholic

one. Both versions agree upon Saint Valentine being a bishop who held secret marriage

ceremonies of soldiers in opposition to Claudius II who had prohibited marriage for

young men and was executed by the latter. During the lifetime of Valentine, the golden

era of Roman empire had almost come to an end. Lack of quality administrators led to

frequent civil strife. Education declined, taxation increased and trade witnessed a very

bad time. The Roman empire faced crisis from all sides, from the Gauls, Slavs, Huns,

Turks and Mongolians from Northern Europe and Asia. The empire had grown too large

to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos with existing forces.

Naturally, more and more capable men were required to to be recruited as soldiers and

officers to protect the nation from takeover. When Claudius became the emperor, he felt

that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, will not

make good soldiers. He believed that marriage made the men weak. So he issued an

edict forbidding marriage to assure quality soldiers.

The ban on marriage was a great shock for the Romans. But they dared not voice their

protest against the mighty emperor.

The kindly bishop Valentine also realized the injustice of the decree. He saw the trauma

of young lovers who gave up all hopes of being united in marriage. He planned to

counter the monarch's orders in secrecy. Whenever lovers thought of marrying, they

went to Valentine who met them afterwards in a secret place, and joined them in the

sacrament of matrimony. And thus he secretly performed many marriages for young

lovers. But such things cannot remain hidden for long. It was only a matter of time

before Claudius came to know of this "friend of lovers," and had him arrested.

While awaiting his sentence in prison, Valentine was approached by his jailor, Asterius.

It was said that Valentine had some saintly abilities and one of them granted him the

power to heal people. Asterius had a blind daughter and knowing of the miraculous

powers of Valentine he requested the latter to restore the sight of his blind daughter.

The Catholic legend has it that Valentine did this through the vehicle of his strong faith,

a phenomenon refuted by the Protestant version which agrees otherwise with the

Catholic one. Whatever the fact, it appears that

When Claudius II met Valentine, he was said to have been impressed by the dignity and

conviction of the latter. However, Valentine refused to agree with the emperor regarding

the ban on marriage. It is also said that the emperor tried to convert Valentine to the

Roman gods but was unsuccesful in his efforts. Valentine refused to recognize Roman

Gods and even attempted to convert the emperor, knowing the consequences fully. This

angered Claudius II who gave the order of execution of Valentine.

Meanwhile, a deep friendship had been formed between Valentine and Asterius'

daughter. It caused great grief to the young girl to hear of his friend's imminent death. It

is said that just before his execution, Valentine asked for a pen and paper from his jailor,

and signed a farewell message to her "From Your Valentine," a phrase that lived ever

after. As per another legend, Valentine fell in love with the daughter of his jailer during

his imprisonment. However, this legend is not given much importance by historians. The

most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not centered on Eros (passionate

love) but on agape (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his

religion. Valentine is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD.

Thus 14th February became a day for all lovers and Valentine became its Patron Saint.

It began to be annually observed by young Romans who offered handwritten greetings

of affection, known as Valentines, on this day to the women they admired. With the

coming of Christianity, the day came to be known as St. Valentine's Day.

But it was only during the 14th century that St. Valentine's Day became definitively

associated with love. UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of "Chaucer

and the Cult of Saint Valentine", credits Chaucer as the one who first linked St.

Valentine's Day with romance. In medieval France and England it was believed that

birds mated on February 14. Hence, Chaucer used the image of birds as the symbol of

lovers in poems dedicated to the day. In Chaucer's "The Parliament of Fowls," the royal

engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine's Day are related:

"For this was on St. Valentine's Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his


By the Middle Ages, Valentine became as popular as to become one of the most

popular saints in England and France. Despite attempts by the Christian church to

sanctify the holiday, the association of Valentine’s Day with romance and courtship

continued through the Middle Ages. The holiday evolved over the centuries. By the 18th

century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become

common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring

cupids and hearts began to be created on this day and handed over to the man or

woman one loved. This tradition eventually spread to the American colonies. It was not

until the 1840s that Valentine's Day greeting cards began to be commercially produced

in the U.S. The first American Valentine's Day greeting cards were created by Esther A.

Howlanda Mount Holyoke, a graduate and native of Worcester. Mass. Howland, known

as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and

colorful pictures known as "scrap". It was when Howland began Valentine's cards in a

large scale that the tradition really caught on in the United States.

Today, Valentine's Day is one of the major holidays in the U.S. and has become a

booming commercial success. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all

cards sent each year are "valentine"s. The "valentines", as Valentine's Day cards are

better known as, are often designed with hearts to symbolize love. The Valentine's Day

card spread with Christianity, and is now celebrated all over the world. One of the

earliest valentines was sent in 1415 AD by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife during

his imprisonment in the Tower of London. The card is now preserved in the British


There may be doubts regarding the actual identity of Valentine, but we know that he

really existed because archaeologists have recently unearthed a Roman catacomb and

an ancient church dedicated to a Saint Valentine.


The Origins of valentine's Day. (n.d.). Retrieved February 7, 2020, from

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