History of Valentine’s Day

Reagan B. '21, Writer

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Feb. 14 is celebrated all over the world and is known as the holiday of love. On Valentine’s Day, couples often times get together, give each other gifts and go out to dinner. Although this is how it is celebrated now, this is not why the holiday was originally started. Currently, Valentine’s Day is not known for what it originally was. There are still people today who do not know the origins of the holiday.

“I have never looked into the history behind Valentine’s Day’ I have always just known it as the holiday where kids eat too much candy and give out heart stickers,” Big Walnut student Morgan Bodker ‘21 said.

Some people believe Valentine’s Day was originally meant to be celebrated mid-February in order to recognize the death of St. Valentine, but others claim the Christian Church may have decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the celebration of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was a festival held each year in Rome on Feb. 15 to celebrate the coming of spring. The festivities were dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of Agriculture, as well as to the original Roman founders, Romulus and Remus according to History.com.

The festival was a time when women were paired off with men by chance, so random couples were put together. Lupercalia stuck around for hundreds of years before it was changed. At the very end of the fifth century, Pope Gelasius I changed the festival from Lupercalia to St. Valentine’s Day. Even with its new name, the holiday did not begin to change to how it is celebrated now until the 14th century. During this time, it first began to be known as a day all about love.

There are several Christian martyrs named Valentine, but this holiday is believed to have gotten its name from a specific priest in 270 C.E. Legend says the priest signed a letter he had written, “from your Valentine” to his jailor’s daughter. Another common legend says St. Valentine went against the emperor’s orders and married couples in order to spare husbands from the war in secret. Because of the history of both of these legends, the holiday is most often associated with love in today’s time according to History.com.

“I think part of the reason people are unaware of the origins of Valentine’s Day is because it is now celebrated as a secular holiday so it can be celebrated in all schools,” history teacher Daniel Harris said.

Formal messages and valentine cards first became popular in the 1500s, but Valentine’s Day cards were not officially printed until the late 1700s in Europe. The first valentines in the United States were sold in the mid-1800s.

“I did not know it had taken so many years of celebrating the holiday before valentines and cards were finally sold because now it is so normal to just go to the store and pick out a box of valentines from the dozens of different options on the shelf,” Carly R. ‘21 said.

Valentines are commonly decorated with colorful hearts and Cupid because he is the Roman God of Love. Birds are also featured as a symbol of this holiday since mid-February the beginning of their mating season. Gifts couples often get include candy and roses, typically red roses because they are seen as a symbol of beauty and love.

“Companies are also promoting a secular celebration because they are able to sell more cards and candy if there is no religious aspect to the holiday the product represents. [Americans] tend to focus on how [they] can make money, so the roots of the holiday are lost in marketing,” Harris said.

Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, Argentina, France, Mexico, South Korea and the Philippines. Due to the love and happiness, Valentine’s Day represents, Feb. 14 is the most popular wedding anniversary in the Philippines because the Filipinos view having a wedding on this date as good luck.

In the Olentangy District, elementary school children have a Valentine’s Day party to celebrate this holiday with their friends. During these parties, children accessorize shoe boxes, or other containers, with heart-shaped stickers and other festive decorations. Students fill these containers with valentines and candy given to them by other students in their class, and they pass out candy and cards as well.

“Making the holiday less religious and more secular also promotes the spread of kindness and love in children because Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in non-religious schools by passing out candy and cards in their classrooms,” Harris said.