The Origin of Valentine’s Day

There are varying versions of the origin of Valentine’s Day with some being not so lovey-dovey. One story says that Pope Gelasius declared Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 at the end of the 5th century. Even though this pope declared Valentine’s Day, a pagan holiday by the name of Lupercalia preceded this declaration. This day celebrated fertility by pairing up a man and a woman from names picked from a jar.

The history of St. Valentine, the person, has different versions — but all the saints end up being executed. The one that seemed to shift the saint’s story to an association with love was about a Roman priest who performed weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry. The soldiers recognized him by a ring with Cupid on it, and this priest also handed out paper hearts to remind the soldiers of God.

What further connected Valentine’s Day with romantic love was a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1381 that celebrated partnership with the word “valentine” representing a lover. As the years passed, by the mid-nineteenth century, paper Valentine cards were being mass-produced. The evolution of Valentine’s Day from these origins into the highly commercialized holiday we now celebrate illustrates that you can create your own meaning. At the root of Valentine’s Day are relationships, partnerships and connection.


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