The origins of Valentine’s Day are shrouded in mystery. What is known is that February has historically been celebrated as a month of romance and that it contains traces of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions. Below is the most common explanation about the origins of Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Valentine or Saint Valentine’s Day, is celebrated annually on February 14th. It is recognized as a major cultural, commercial, and religious celebration of romance in many places around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different martyred saints named Valentine or Valentinus. One legend revolves around a priest named Valentine from third century Rome. During this time, Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than married ones so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the act, defied Claudius and continued to secretly perform marriages.
When Claudius found out about these marriages, Valentine was sentenced to death and thrown in jail. While imprisoned, he fell in love with the jailor’s blind daughter. Legend has it that his love and belief in God cured her blindness. When he was taken to be killed on February 14th, he sent her a love letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
It wasn’t until 200 years later that February 14th was proclaimed St. Valentine’s Day. By this time Rome had become a Christian nation and the Catholic Church was determined to rid itself of any remaining paganism. A pagan fertility ritual, Lupercalia, was historically held in February each year so Pope Gelasius abolished this festival and proclaimed February 14th as Saint Valentine’s Day.
Everything above might be a combination of multiple legends. No one can say for sure.
- 19th-century physicians commonly advised their patients to eat chocolate to mend a broken heart.
- If you’re single, you can celebrate Singles Awareness Day (SAD) instead.
- In Finland, Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä, which translates into “Friend’s day.” It’s more about remembering your friends than your romantic partners.