A Brief History of Valentine’s Day


Anna Favetta, Copy Editor

Today’s February 14th is a day full of empty wallets and full hearts, lovers happily exchanging gifts and the unattached happily renewing their Netflix subscription. However, February 14th in the Middle Ages is a story of rebellion. Valentine’s Day stems from the celebration of Saint Valentine and was once a religious holiday. Valentine started as a priest in the time of Emperor Claudius the Second. Claudius was a man who valued toughness and viewed married men or men with families as weak. He felt single men made better soldiers, so he outlawed marriage. However, many men still wanted to marry and Valentine agreed to help. Valentine recognized the new law as unjust and deliberately defied Claudius by performing illegal marriages in secret. When Claudius discovered what Valentine was doing, he sentenced him to death.

Another legend states that Valentine was executed for helping Christians escape Roman prisons because Roman prisons meant nothing but torture and beatings. In fact, one story suggests Valentine actually sent the first valentine from prison. Legend has it Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter who would often visit him in jail. It is said that before his death he signed his letter to her, “from your Valentine,” and thus every Valentine’s day card signature was born. No matter the case Saint Valentine is recognized as a symbol for rebellious lovers everywhere.

Although it is said that Valentine’s day takes place on February 14th to commemorate Saint Valentine’s death, Valentine’s Day’s date is actually due to the attempted conversions done by the Christian Church. The Christian Church placed Valentine’s Day the day before the Pagan celebration of Lupercalia to try and influence Pagans to become Christian. Although Romans ruled over Christians in the Middle Ages, Lupercalia is a festival that celebrates the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. As the Christian Church came to power, the Romans lost power and so Valentine’s Day takes place February 14th. Valentine’s Day is a story of rebellion, conflict and Christian conversion.