The History of Valentine’s Day


Michael Sommers

This year Valentine’s Day takes place on Monday, February 14th. You may be wondering, what is Valentine’s Day and what is its history of it? Valentines Day is seen as a holiday that is associated with love and romance. People often give gifts of candies, flowers, etc. The name Valentine comes from the Christian Saint Valentine. Towards the end of the fifth century, Pope Gelasius declared St. Valentines Day would be on February 14th. The reason he decided this date goes back to ancient Roman traditions. It is believed that on February 15th there was a Pagan tradition in ancient Rome that was meant to celebrate fertility. On this holiday it was said that two Roman priests would sacrifice a dog and a goat and dip the goat hide in the sacrificial blood. The bloody hide would then be put on to women and crops as they believed it would increase their fertility. It is also believed women would place their names into a big urn. The cities bachelors would then pick these names and would be with that woman for a year, which would often result in marriage. Finally, in the 5th century, this holiday was outlawed by the pope as it was deemed non-Christian. Since then St. Valentine’s day was celebrated on February 14th.

The mythical figure Cupid is often seen on Valentine cards, and other things associated with the holiday. This figure has its roots in Greek mythology being the god of love, Eros. According to Greek poets, Cupid would shoot unsuspecting lovers with golden arrows to incite love between the two people.  

Valentines did not become very popular until about the 17th century. Today it is mostly celebrated in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, and Australia. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was common for people to write letters and exchange small gifts. By the 1900´s it was more common to send printed cards instead of letters because of the improvements in technology. Overall Valentine’s day is a very ancient holiday that dates all the way back to the 5th century and still lives on today.