The Origin Behind Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is known as a day for celebrating love and romance, not many realize this holiday stems back to the time of Ancient Rome. The recorded history of Valentine’s Day dates back centuries and shaped the holiday we now celebrate annually with some surprising details in forming this holiday. 

There is limited information with the early recorded history when it comes to the origins of Valentine’s Day but the earliest indications containing vestiges of the early Christian church in Ancient Rome. Valentine’s Day was partially inspired by the Pagan festival of Lupercalia that honors religious figures like Lupa the she-wolf of Rome or the god of fertility Faunus.

During the 5th century in what appeared to be an attempt to Christianize the pagan festival, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as Saint Valentine’s Day. Though there was a celebration of Saint Valentine, historians indicate that there were several figures known as Saint Valentine.

A Roman legend indicates one Saint Valentine was a defiant Roman priest who lived during the 3rd century A.D. under the rule of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius gained a reputation of being an ambitious ruler and required vast armies of men when marching into battle resulting in the soldiers abandoning their families for a long time during military service.

The demand on the soldiers resulted in a majority of them feeling half-hearted in serving for the military as most were homesick missing their loved ones. Claudius’ determination to have a dedicated army resulted in banning marriages altogether with the logic that he would have dedicated soldiers if they didn’t have loved ones.

Following the official ban on marriage, Father Valentine took action by defying the emperor and defending lovers by marrying them in secret. Once Emperor Claudius discovered Father Valentine defying his orders, Father Valentine was arrested and sentenced to death.

Father Valentine risked his life in the name of love with the couples that he secretly married coming to visit him in his jail cell passing him note and flowers as symbols of gratitude. During his time imprisoned, it is a legend that Father Valentine happened to fall in love with the daughter of his jailer.

Father Valentine passed away on February 14th and left a note for his love that was signed “from your Valentine” that can be considered the first Valentine’s Day card in history. Father Valentine’s history lives on in the romantic holiday and introduced more traditions for the holiday.

Cupid is another pivotal figure with Valentine’s Day being known as the Roman god of love that was inspired by the image of cherubs from Christians that live on as a key figure featured on Valentine’s Day cards and décor. This holiday might have religious origins but is one of the biggest holidays celebrated worldwide with the U.S. spending $22 billion in 2021 on romantic gifts.