The History Of Valentine’s Day – From The Saint To Candy Hearts

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash


Red and pink cover the aisles at every local store in preparation for one of the biggest days of the year for retailers.

That’s right, it’s time to take your little Romeo shopping for those heart shaped chocolates to give his Valentine crush.

But how exactly have we come to celebrate February 14th every year as a day of love and romance?

Most people know the day has something to do with Saint Valentine, but the traditions begin even prior to the martyred saint of legends old.

There are a couple of legends that surround Saint Valentine, but one that overshadowed most, according to the History Channel, is that he was a romantic killed by Emperor Claudius II for being sympathetic to young hearts in love.

Claudius believed that young men were better soldiers when they weren’t tied to a wife and family, so he outlawed marriage for young men.

Valentine continued to marry young couples in secret until he was discovered by the emperor, after which his life was taken and forever remembered as a saint of love.

It is unsure which month Saint Valentine died in, but historians believe it was around the year 270A.D., according to the History Channel.

By the Middle Ages Saint Valentine was the most popular and beloved saint, which is probably why Christians of the time decided to celebrate him in place of the pagan festival of Lupercalia.

The History Channel reports:

“Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.”

Among the many unusual traditions surrounding this pagan celebration, such as running around the city slapping everything with bloody goat hides, it was customary to pair up young couples.

All the young ladies would put their names in an urn where the bachelors would draw one to be paired with, this union often led to marriage.

Lupercalia was celebrated until it was deemed “un-Christian” at the end of the 5th century by Pope Gelasius, who then declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day.

The oldest recorded “Valentine Card” was written in 1415 by Charles Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, reports the History Channel.

In the 17th century, Great Britain was the first country to begin celebrating Valentine’s Day as we know it today.

Americans were likely exchanging little romantic notes for the popular holiday in the 1700’s, with the first recorded creator of Valentine Cards for sale in the nation being Esther A. Howland.

“The Mother of Valentine”, Howland, mass produced elaborate cards with lace, ribbon, and ornate pictures to give to all those whom you felt affection for.

Unsurprisingly, the retail market has built off this tradition to extend it to chocolates, teddy bears, jewelry, and expensive dinners for two.

Many Americans have taken the bleeding heart of Saint Valentine and turned into an obligatory rote action.

But then there are those who bask in the opportunity to show their more romantic side, wooing their loved one, and reminding themselves how important relationships are.

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