Updated: Feb 15
St Valentine's Day is on the 14th of February and every year, couples all around the world celebrate love and happiness. We know couples gift each other roses, chocolates and teddy bears on this special day, but have you ever wondered why we do this?
History of St Valentine’s Day
The exact origins of where Valentine’s Day comes from is unknown, however historians have come up with some theories of this holiday's origins.
Some historians believe that Valentine's Day originated from the festival of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was celebrated from 13th - 15th February by the Romans; it celebrated the pairing of women and men, promoting health and fertility in the coming of Spring. However, Pope Gelasius decided to ban Lupercalia at the end of the 5th Century and replaced it with St. Valentine’s Day.
Other Historians believe that St. Valentine's Day originated from the execution of two men, both called Valentine. These men were both executed on the 14th of February in different years! What makes this even more of a coincidence is that they were both executed by the same man, and his name was Emperor Claudius II. One of the men Emperor Claudius II executed was a famous saint called St Valentine. St Valentine decided to break the rules after Emperor Claudius II banned marriage for soldiers. He believed a married soldier was a bad soldier, but St Valentine disagreed, so he arranged marriages in secret. Unfortunately, Emperor Claudius II found out and sentenced St Valentine to be executed on the 14th of February. When Valentine was in jail he fell in love with his jailer's daughter and on the 14th of February (the day of his execution) he wrote a letter to the woman he loved, and the letter ended with '...from your Valentine.'
Despite these amazing stories we have very little evidence that this is where the special day originated from, however, historians have found poems and letters that help us understand the history of St Valentine’s Day. The first-ever record that St Valentine’s Day refers to love originates from a poem written in the late 14th century by Geoffrey Chaucer. The poem is ‘Parliament of Fowls’ and it describes a group of birds gathering to choose their mates in early spring on ‘seynt valentynes day’.
St Valentine’s Day Today
Today St Valentine’s Day is still celebrated by many people all over the world. In 2020, 41.4 million people celebrated this special day and an incredible £1.45 billion (£35 per person) was spent. Then in 2021, we saw a slight drop from 2020 where 40 million (76%) of Brits celebrated St Valentine’s Day and we saw £926 million (£23 per person) being spent on this special day.
Like every holiday, everyone has different opinions and reasons for celebrating or not celebrating. Some teenagers choose to not bother with the occasion, Grace in Year 9 stated ‘Valentine’s Day can bring up expensive expectations with gifts, which many can’t afford, as well as leaving out people who aren’t in a relationship.’ And Elliot in Year 9 said: ‘I think that it’s a cute day about romance and love! However, I do think that Valentine's Day has become a bit gimmicky. I don’t think that it’s important to celebrate it if you’re in a relationship though. Every day of a relationship should be about love and romance, even on the low days!’
We may never know the true origins of St Valentine's Day, but these theories make St. Valentine’s Day more interesting and the celebration it is today.
Happy Valentine’s Day!