How Valentine’s Day Came to Be


Where did Valentine’s Day come from? Though historians do not know the concrete origin of Valentine’s Day, they have identified a connection to the ancient Roman fertility festival called Lupercalia. On this day, an order of Roman priests, called the Luperci, would sacrifice a goat to Romulus and Remus – the founders of Rome – then gently slap women with the blood-soaked goat hide, believing that this made them more fertile for the year. In the afternoon, bachelors would pull names of young women from an urn to be paired with, most of whom ended up entering marriage. The holiday was largely associated with fertility; the romance aspect would only come into play later on.

Historians also point to a man named St. Valentine in the history of this holiday. Or maybe two? According to NPR news, Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine on February 14 in different years. One of the men, Saint Valentine of Terni, was executed for officiating weddings in secret to spare husbands from war. These men were seen as martyrs and honored by the Catholic Church with St. Valentine’s Day. This new St. Valentine’s Day replaced Lupercalia when it was outlawed by Pope Gelasius I. The romanization of the holiday, besides the story of St. Valentine, can also be attributed to authors including Geoffrey Chaucer and Shakespeare, who popularized the romantic aspect with love letters and dates. 

While one might think the holiday is only for lovers, the celebration of modern Valentine’s Day is actually quite diverse. According to Healthline, while it is true that the holiday is enjoyed primarily by couples, with 62% of married couples loving Valentine’s Day, while only 34% of single people do, many people celebrate in different ways. Polls have shown that 60% of all groups express their love to family on Valentine’s Day: 18% to best friends and a surprising 18% to pets

Remember back in elementary school when everyone in class had to bring a Valentine’s Day card for every person in class? Writing 20 Valentine’s was tiring, but coming home with a bunch of candy and sweet notes was definitely special. This only goes to show that Valentine’s Day does not have to be solely about lovers; the holiday has expanded to become a day filled with appreciation for any kind of relationship, from friends, classmates, coworkers, and even pets.