The History and Evolution of Valentine’s Day

As the holiday dedicated to love approaches, you may be wondering about the history of Valentine’s Day. Well, the history of this holiday is actually quite complicated. There are many different stories and legends that suggest the true origin of St. Valentine’s story. However, all of them take place in the 3rd century and are about a man named Valentine or Valentinus who was martyred. However, some say Valentine was a Roman priest. 


Around the time of 270 A.D., in Rome, Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men because he believed men were better soldiers. Stories say that Valentine saw the injustice of this decree and took action by marrying people in secret. Eventually, Claudius found this out and Valentine was killed, possibly beheaded. 


Another legend says that Valentine was helping Christians escape from a Roman prison and was put in prison himself. While in prison, Valentine befriended – some say fell in love with – the jailer’s daughter. He sent her a note signed “Your Valentine” later giving the idea for people to send valentines. 

Valentine’s heroism was first celebrated as a Roman festival called Lupercalia. This holiday was quite different from Valentine’s Day celebrated now, however, as it was very gruesome and violent. At the end of the 5th century, this holiday was abolished and replaced with Valentine’s Day more current to what we see today. 


Surprisingly, sending “valentines” did not become a tradition until the 1500s. Symbols of Valentine’s Day include Cupid, the Roman god of love, and birds because many begin mating around the time of the holiday. Roses were also a common symbol that represented beauty and love. Commercially printed cards for Valentine’s Day were developed in the late 1700s and continue to be a tradition today. 


Works Cited

“Valentine’s Day | Definition, History, & Traditions.” Britannica, 14 December 2021, Accessed 20 January 2022.

“Valentine’s Day: Origins, Background & Traditions | HISTORY – HISTORY.”, 24 January 2022, Accessed 20 January 2022.