History of Valentine's Day

by Rachel Bartels February 11, 2021

History of Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day...the day to show affection for all your loved ones. Spouses, significant others, children, friends...the list goes on. Valentine's is one of those holidays people either love or hate. What about you, do you love it? 

Even if you're not a fan of Valentine's Day, do you know the history behind it? Not the Hallmark history, but the world history.

You may have heard of St. Valentine of the Catholic Church. Did you know there were actually 3 Valentines and no one knows who the namesake of the holiday is? The first Valentine was a priest who served when Emperor Claudius II was in power. Claudius decided that single men made better soldiers and, therefore, outlawed marriage. Valentine went against this decree and kept marrying couples in secret. He was discovered and beheaded.

The second Valentine was a bishop during the reign of Claudius as well. Little is known about his service but he was beheaded outside of Rome too.

The third Valentine may have been killed for helping Christians escape Roman prisons. During his imprisonment, Valentine fell in love with a girl (maybe the jailer's daughter?) who visited him. Before he died, he wrote her a letter signed "From Your Valentine", which is still used today. 

Valentine's Day may be celebrated in February to commemorate the death of Valentine. But a more likely reason is that the Christian church was trying to "Christianize" the pagan festival of Lupercalia. This festival was given for the pagan fertility god of agriculture as well as for Romulus and Remus. It was a festival of fertility involving some unique practices that sometimes ended in marriage. So, Valentine's Day took the place of those practices. 

Interesting, right? How do you celebrate Valentine's Day? Do you go all out or prefer simple expressions of love?

Rachel Bartels
Rachel Bartels


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