Valentine's Day is celebrated on the 14th February every year. Card shops are filled with red and pink. Gift shops - in-store and online - provide plenty of Valentines Day gift ideas such as teddy bears, heart-shaped keyrings, and roses. It's a huge lovefest and one of the biggest festivities celebrated around the world. But where did Valentine's Day come from? When did it begin? And who exactly was St. Valentine? Let's put our history caps on and head back in time.

How did Valentine's Day start?

The original festival which is thought to have started it all is the heathen Roman festival called Lupercalia, celebrated in the middle of February at the beginning of springtime. Seasons were slightly different back in the day. Lupercalia was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.


The festival began with a gathering at a sacred cave where it was believed Romulus and Remus were cared for as infants by a she-wolf or lupa. The Roman priests, who were members of a sacred order called Luperci, would sacrifice a goat and a dog. The goat was sacrificed to prosper fertility whilst the dog's sacrifice signified purification. The goat's hide would be cut into strips and dipped into the blood, then slapped across Roman women and crop fields with the hope it would grant fertility during the coming year. Throughout the years, as the festival grew and changed, another notable aspect of Lupercalia was the pairing of men and women. All Roman women would place their names in a large urn. Then, the city's bachelors would pick a name at random. The two would be paired together for an entire year during which the man would care for and protect the woman. The matches often ended in marriages.

It is said that Pope Gelasius I forbid the heathen festival at the end of the 5th century and replaced it with what we now know as Valentine's Day due to their many similarities, primarily having men and women paired off together. It was not until much later, however, that the day became associated with love.

Who was St. Valentine? ߙ

St Valentine

There are many stories and legends of the original St. Valentine. Primarily, three men are associated with the occasion. Some believe two of them are, in fact, the same person.

The first is a Roman priest. During the time of Emperor Claudius II, soldiers began to refuse to go to war because they fell in love and did not want to leave their partners behind in case they never saw them again. Claudius banned marriage to keep his men on track to secure a prosperous future for the land. However, the priest began to perform secret weddings for the soldiers and their lovers. He continued to do so until he was captured and later beheaded on the 14th February.

The Bishop of Interamna met the same fate of beheading on the 14th February. It is said he was a martyr who died for his Christian faith as well as performing secret marriages.

There are various tales as to which of the above men was the person who healed his captor's daughter of blindness. Whoever it was, just before his beheading, he sent the daughter - his friend - a letter signed "Your Valentine".

Valentine's Day Traditions Today

History of Valentines Day

Today, we celebrate Valentine's Day in a variety of ways. We send cards filled with love notes, Roses are Red poems, and promises of love and protection for our Valentine. We exchange romantic gifts to show just how much we love our partner. Flowers and chocolates remain popular choices, especially red roses. People also send cards signed with "from your secret admirer", adding to the fun and mysterious aspect Valentine's Day can bring. In more recent years, the phenomenon of Galentine's Day, celebrated the day before Valentine's Day, has snowballed into a huge unofficial day of celebration. Instead of romantic love, this day is reserved for the love of friendship.

To conclude, there are many tales and legend to the origins of Valentine's Day, some of which are disputed all over the world. What remains the same is the recurrence of love and partnership through the ages. As everything evolves, so does Valentine's Day, and in the time of Gen Z, science, and technology - when we send love affirmations, letterbox flowers, and confessional videos - we can't imagine being slapped with the hide of a sacrificed goat in order to provide the future generation.