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Valentine's Day - History and Lore

Updated on January 17, 2016
Phyllis Doyle profile image

History and origins of holidays are a special interest for Phyllis. She loves to decorate for holidays in traditional fashion.

Antique Valentine ~

1909 Valentine by Chordboard.
1909 Valentine by Chordboard. | Source

True love ~

Valentine's Day, that special day set aside on February 14 each year for true love -- when young lovers and even the elderly sweethearts give each other flowers, special gifts, cards, candy and promises. What could be sweeter than to see an elderly man still so much in love with his wife that he gives her a romantic valentine -- or a shy blushing little girl who will pass a cute valentine to a boy she has a crush on?

Valentine's Day is when most grade school kids put all the valentines they have been signing into a bag to take to school and distribute to all their friends. There is usually a very special valentine for the teacher and that special someone.

When did this tradition of giving valentines as a token of love begin? And for how long has this been going on?

Valentine's Day ~

What would you prefer to receive on Valentine's Day ?

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Pagan and Christian ~

The roots of Valentines Day were planted by ancient Pagan belief. This was a fertility celebration usually performed around February 15. Lupercalis, or Lupercalia, is what the ancient people of Rome called this festival.

Although the history of this holiday is obscure and has numerous legends and lore surrounding it, Valentine's Day, as we now know it, contains both Christian and Pagan traditions.

Pagan festival ~

The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia was celebrated annually in mid-February and was to honor Lupercus, who was the god of fertility and Juno, the queen of Roman gods and goddesses. Juno was also the patron of women and marriage.

This special festival was to celebrate the coming of spring and the promise of fertility, not only for the people, but their flocks and planted fields. One of the customs was that each young maiden of the village would put her name in a large urn. Then each young and single man of the village would draw a name from the urn. That couple would then to be paired for the following year. Often, the paired couple ended the year wedded to each other.

Leupercalia is one of the most ancient of Pagan festivals from Rome. At the foot of a hill called Lupercal was a grotto said to be the mythical founding place of Rome. It is here that Romulus and Remus were raised by the She-Wolf. In mythology, the legendary twins were the founders of Rome.

From their sacred grotto a magical spring issued forth. The name of the grotto was given to a priestly order, called Luperci -- and the festival is Lupercalia.

Saint Valentine and the Virgin Mary~

Saint Valentine receives a rosary from the Virgin, by David Teniers III
Saint Valentine receives a rosary from the Virgin, by David Teniers III | Source

Christianity ~

As Christianity gained power, old Pagan holidays and festivals were renamed to honor early Christian martyrs. Pope Gelasius renamed the Leupercalia festival and made it a Christian holiday in 496 AD. It was to be celebrated on February 14 as a feast day of the Roman martyr, Saint Valentine of the 3rd century. But, as to which St. Valentine the Pope meant to honor is deeply shadowed by mystery. There were three St. Valentines in early Christianity.

There was a priest in Rome, a bishop in Terni, and another who had died in Africa. It is rather odd that all three had actually been martyred on February 14. Was this possibly done to further hide the Pagan roots of this celebration? As with other holidays, notably Christmas, the dates set aside each year for these special occasions coincided with the ancient Pagan rituals and therefore replaced them to become known as Christian holidays.

Saint Valentine ~

Legends ~

Obscurity and imaginative legends make the origins of the holiday even more mysterious. Most people are quite satisfied that the proper St. Valentine whom the holiday was named after, was the priest whom the Roman emperor Claudius II imprisoned, around 270 for holding marriage ceremonies in secret.

You see, Claudius had issued an edict forbidding marriage -- one reason for this was that married men did not make good, loyal soldiers to fight in his army. A married man, so Claudius thought, was weak because of the attachment to their wives and family. Claudius found out that Valentine was still performing marriage ceremonies and had Valentine put in prison, where he was later executed.

While Valentine was in prison he became a friend to Asterius, the jailer, who had a daughter that was blind. According to Catholic legend , Valentine, because of his strong faith, miraculously restored the sight of Asterius' daughter. Just before his execution, he asked for a pen and paper from his jailer and signed a farewell message to her "From Your Valentine," a phrase that lived ever after.

Valentine was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion and his strong belief in marriage. Valentine was executed on February 14 in 270 AD and thus became a Patron Saint of the annual festival.

Young Roman men began giving the women they admired notes of affection on February 14 and the protocol required that St. Valentine's name be on these greetings.

The Liber Regalis ~

The Liber Regalis, showing Richard and Anne of Bohemia Čeština: Liber Regalis - Richard II. a Anna Lucemburská
The Liber Regalis, showing Richard and Anne of Bohemia Čeština: Liber Regalis - Richard II. a Anna Lucemburská | Source

Love and Romance ~

By the 14th century, the holiday was expressly meant to be for love and romance. Geoffrey Chaucer (1342 - 1400), the English poet, composed a poem to honor the engagement of King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. As was his tradition, Chaucer associated this with a feast day -- St. Valentine's Day in this case.

By the Middle Ages, Valentine's day was even more associated with romance and courtship, in spite of the Christian church's efforts to sanctify the holiday.

The traditions of the holiday eventually evolved to gift giving and the exchange of cards. The cards were made by loving hands with ribbons, laces, dried flowers and would have cupids, lovebirds and hearts on them. This tradition remains to this day -- although the younger generations will sometimes prefer cartoon figures or action heroes on the cards rather than the lace and ribbons! Regardless of what is on the cards, the intent remains the same -- love, romance and courtship.

Happy Valentine's Day from Cutest Kittens ~

Red, red rose ~

0, my love is like a red, red rose,

that's newly sprung in June.

0, my love is like a melody,

that's sweetly play'd in tune.

~ ~ ~ ~

— Robert Burns, 1759 - 1796

Red rose ~

Red rose symbolizes love
Red rose symbolizes love | Source

Note from author ~

A very happy Valentine's Day to all.

Thank you for reading my article. Your opinions are important to me and let me know your interests. This helps me to offer more of your favorite subjects to read about. Your time and interest are very much appreciated. I hope to hear from you in the comments section below.

I write on several different subjects, all evergreen articles. You can read more about me and see more articles I wrote by clicking on my name by the small picture of me at the top right of this page.

Blessings and may you always walk in Peace and Harmony, softly upon Mother Earth.

Phyllis Doyle Burns - Lantern Carrier, Spiritual Mentor

~ ~ ~ ~

© 2014 Phyllis Doyle Burns


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    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Genna. You are most welcome. I am glad you liked this hub. It is always interesting to read about the origins of holidays. The history of Valentine's Day is very interesting. Thank you so much for the visit, votes, share and comment.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Phyllis…

      I’m embarrassed to say that I had no idea where or how Valentine’s Day first originated. Valentine showed great courage, faith and humanity by marrying people in love, despite the grave dangers to his life by virtue of Claudius’ edict. St. Valentine’s Day honors him in many ways. This special day is now even more treasured after reading this hub. Thank you! Voted up and shared. :-)

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Awww -- that is so sweet, Jodah, that you drove all that way to spend a special time with your wife. That is the best kind of gift. Thank you so much for the read and comment. I appreciate your visit and kind words. Take care.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very enjoyable and interesting hub Phyllis, quite a coincidence that all three St Valentine's were martyred on the 14th February, or maybe not. I had heard some of this history before but it was a good refresher and you write so well it's always a pleasure to read your hubs. I drove for four hours to be with my wife for Valentine's Day....better than any present, just to be together. Voted up.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Pardon my grammar. I should have said "... the origins of the day are ..." not is.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Alastar. How delightful to hear from you. I agree, the origins of the day is quite mysterious.

      I love the video with the darling kittens. It is so expressive of cuddliness and love - purrfect for Valentine's Day. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Your words are very encouraging and kind. Thanks again, Dane.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      5 years ago from North Carolina

      Being into Roman history I was somewhat aware of the roots of Valentine Day but this finely written piece has enlightened me further. Knew almost nothing about the Christian stories. The origins of the day are truly mysterious with all that was going-on. And the way you ended the Hub was purrfect!

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Sheila. Thanks for the visit and comment. I agree with you on the poll answer. Quality time with a loved one is so much more important than anything. Glad you enjoyed reading the article. Thanks again and have a great day.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      teaches12345 , thank you very much for the nice comment. I am glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for telling us the history of Valentine's day. I've heard a little bit of it and enjoyed the more in-depth details you gave. You ask in your poll what I'd want for Valentine's day and I answered "other". Candy, cards, and other things are nice, but if I was dating or married, all I'd want is to spend some quality time with my mate. The romance and little special things can be something we do for each other every day of the year.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Eddy. Thank you so much. I always appreciate your visits. Have a wonderful day with your beloved. Hugs.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Thank you, Will. I am happy I got this out in time to remind you. Have a wonderful Valentine's Day with your love.

    • WillStarr profile image


      5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Beautiful work Phyllis and a timely reminder that I need to go buy my love a card and some flowers before the big day!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      I have not read the history of this day. Thank you. The video of the kittens is so cute. This is well put together and is so interesting to read.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful hub Phyllis and voted up, across and shared. Take care and I wish you a great day.


    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      You are a sweetie ! Okay, I know ... no mushy stuff ... well you are very nice, Frank, and I thank you for the stop over and your wonderful comment. Happy Valentine's Day.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 years ago from Shelton

      what an entertaining... useful, hub.. love the history, the tales... I'm not Christian, but enjoyed the point of view... and that little poem too was good oh and the video.. this hub was worth the stop over up and sharing :)


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