Valentine’s Day, sweet or not?

The history of Valentine’s day. Illustration by: Matt Fabrizio

Valentines Day, Feb. 14, the one day of the year designated to celebrating your “special someone.” A day that is filled with romance, but do you happen to know the history of the day? It’s not as romantic as you may think … 

The day is to honor St. Valentine, however, there were multiple saints named Valentine or Valentinus involved in the Roman and Catholic church. According to an article published by the History channel, two different saints, coincidentally both named Valentine, were executed on the fourteenth of February by the same Emperor. 

One of the Valentines’ was a priest in Rome during the third century. Emperor Claudius II banned young men from marriage because he thought they were fit to be soldiers for the Roman empire. 

According to the History channel article, Valentine did not see the same idea as the Emperor, and continued to marry young couples in secret. Once his actions were discovered, Claudius ordered for Valentine to be killed, and he was executed on the fourteenth. He is considered a martyr for his actions and the holiday is celebrated in his honor.

There was also the Roman celebration of Lupercalia, a sacrificial feast of a goat and dog that signified the fertility of women. According to an article written by NPR, the festival lasted from Feb. 13 through the 15, and it was meant to celebrate Faunas, the god of agriculture. 

According to NPR, men would pick names of women from a jar and these women were forced to couple with that man to spend the duration of the festival with them. Women were also hit by men during this “festival” as they believed this wrongful action would somehow make them fertile.

The holiday started to change its reputation in the late middle ages, when the day became more of a romantic celebration of love. According to the History channel publication, an English man by the name of Geoffrey Chaucer was the first man to use Valentine’s Day in a poem with his publication of “Parliament of Foules” in 1375.
Shakespeare was also one of the firsts to mention the new holiday in his work, beginning the romanticism of the holiday. According to NPR, The first valentine poem ever written was from the Duke of Orleans in 1415 as he wrote to his wife while being imprisoned after the Battle of Agincourt. 

As the holiday grew in popularity in Europe, it eventually made its way to North America in the 17th century, according to the History channel’s publication. The first largely manufactured card production was done by Esther Howland in the 1840s. Since this mass production, the holiday has never been the same. 

Now, Valentine’s Day is celebrated all around the world. The holiday is the second biggest day of the whole year to buy and send a card, losing only to Christmas. The Greeting Card Association reports there are approximately 145 million cards for people to purchase, according to the History Channel’s publication. 

So for this Valentine’s day, think of the history behind this special day and try to educate more people about the truth… Wasn’t the happy ending you were expecting, was it?