Receive LOVE in your mailbox

Try our weekly newsletter with amazing tips to bring and retain love in your life

History Of Valentine’s Day: The Origins

The Feast of Saint Valentine, more popularly called Valentine’s Day, is celebrated on the 14th of February every year. Though a fete around the globe, it is not an official holiday in most countries. According to a popular account, Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for helping those soldiers to get married, who were prohibited from doing the same and tending to those Christians who were wronged by the Roman Empire. Legend holds that when the Saint was imprisoned, he cured the jailer’s daughter, Asterius. He is believed to have written a farewell letter to her before he was executed. It was signed off as, “Your Valentine”!

st valentine_New_Love_Times

St. Valentine

Image source: Pinterest

The history of popular things are usually ignored the most and so to save the history of Valentine’s Day from dying out in a similar fashion, this is our small attempt to keep the antiquity alive. Valentine’s Day is a formal feast day for the Anglican Communion and also the Lutheran Church. However, it was associated with love in the romantic sense of the word only in Geoffrey Chaucer’s circle, when the belief of courtly love thrived. In England, during the 18th century, the day involved lovers conveying their love for one another by gifting flowers, presenting confectionery, and also sending valentines, that is, greeting cards. In Europe, on Valentine’s Day, lovers are given Saint Valentine’s Keys. These serve “as a romantic symbol and invitation to unlock the giver’s heart.” These keys are also given to children to hold off epilepsy. Today, the Valentine’s Day symbols embrace heart-shaped outline, doves, and also the figure of cupid. From the 19th century onwards, mass-produced greeting cards replaced the handwritten valentines.

Suggested read: 12 amazing tips on how to be single on Valentine’s Day

History of Valentine’s Day: The facts

antique valentine's day card_New_Love_Times

Antique Valentine’s Day card

Image source: Pinterest

The Valentines that are honored on the 14th of February are the Valentine of Rome and the Valentine of Terni. The former was a Roman priest. His relics are kept in Catacombs and the Church of San Valentino. These places were very significant pilgrim sites until they were transferred to Sata Prassede church after the middle ages. You may have seen the flower-crowned Saint Valentine’s skull displayed in Santa Maria’s Basilica in Rome, Italy.

The Valentine of Terni, on the other hand, was the bishop of Interamna. He was martyred during Emperor Aurelin’s persecution. He was buried in Via Flamina, but not in the same location as the Roman Valentine.

Folk traditions

handmade valentine's day cards_New_Love_Times

Image source: Pinterest

The European folk tradition related to Valentine’s Day has become sidelined by the customs of Anglo-American origin, which connects this day with romance. The customs include sending cards and flowers and also other gifts. These were initiated by the English and still remain a part of the celebrations. In Norfolk, there is a character named Jack Valentine who knocks on the back doors of houses and leaves candies and flowers for the kids. The irony, however, is that children feared this mystical character!

In Slovenia, on Valentine’s Day, the first work in the vineyards commence. The history of Valentine’s Day here is very different from the one we have read about so far. Saint Valentine in Slovenia was a saint of spring and good health. He was the patron of pilgrims and also beekeepers. According to a proverb, he brings the “keys of roots.” Legend holds that on this day, birds propose to one another and get married!

Valentine’s Day: A day of love

1. Lupercalia

Until Chaucer’s poetry, Valentine’s Day wasn’t a celebration of romance. The focus was more on sacrifice than love. In Lupercalia, Rome, an ancient rite was performed between 13th to 15th February. This rite was related to fertility. If we were to believe some researchers, Gelasius I substituted Lupercalia for the celebration of a purification rite called the Purification of Mary, though there is no historical evidence to support the same.

The book, Lives of the Principal Saints, claims that people of Lupercalia drew out names from a jar. They were coupled with the person whose name was on the chit. This custom, in real life, was invented in the medieval period.

2. Chaucer’s love birds

chaucer's love birds_New_Love_Times

Chaucer’s love birds

Image source: Pinterest

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”

This poem by Chaucer was written to honor King Richard II of England’s first engagement anniversary to Anne of Bohemia. There are three other poets who composed about bird’s mating on Valentine’s Day!

3. Court of love

The first description of the 14th of February being a day of love appears in a charter called the Charter of the Court of Love. This charter was issued by Charles the sixth of France. It describes extravagant festivities that were attended by many participants of the royal court. These celebrations included feasts, amorous songs, and various poetry contests.

International love!

4. Latin America

Valentine’s Day is called ‘el dia de los enamorados’ (day of lovers!) in some of the Latin American countries. In Guatemala, however, it is dubbed as the “Dia del Cariño’ (Day of affection).

In Brazil, the Lover’s Day is feted on the 12th of June, because according to the history of Valentine’s Day here, St. Anthony (regarded as the marriage saint) started conducting marriages on this day. The February 14th that we know, is not commemorated here because it falls too little before or after the Brazillian carnival!

5. United States

be my valentine_New_Love_Times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

In America, around 190 million cards are sent every year on Valentine’s Day. Yet, this does not include the millions of greeting cards that school kids exchange. In recent times, the celebration has become extremely commercialized. Gifts have become a must! Also, there are numerous Valentine’s Day themed ads that encourage you to spend that dime!

Suggested read: 20 mushy Valentine’s Day love quotes to make you go weak in the knees

6. China

Valentine’s Day is called lover’s festival in China. The Chinese variant of it is known as the Qixi Festival, which is commemorated on the 7th day of every 7th month of the lunar calendar. In the modern times, celebrating White Day is becoming more fashionable among the youth.

7. India

khajuraho temple_New_Love_Times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

If we were to believe history, India adored Kamadeva, the lord of love! I am sure you have seen the magnificent erotic carvings in the Khajuraho temple and also read about the art of lovemaking spelt out in the Kamasutra. In the Middle Ages, however, the tradition was lost.

The craze around Valentine’s Day did not make a mark in India until the 1990s; 1992 to be precise. MTV and other radio programs started conducting love letter writing contests among others to usher the trend in. Also, with economic liberalization, there was an explosion of the greeting card industry!

Though some radical traditionalists believe that this day and the message around it is contaminating the Indian culture (!), the lovers don’t seem to be paying much heed to that! :)

8. Iran 

The love festival in Iran is called the Spandarmazgan. People on this day express their love towards their wives as well as their mothers. It is also a celebration of the Mother Earth according to the ancient Persian culture. The festival is held on February 17th each year.

9. Japan

A different version of the holiday is observed in the Land of the Rising Sun! It is based on a love story called Tanabata. Its origin and history is different from the history of Valentine’s Day in the west.

10. Spain

In Spain, the celebrations are popularly called San Valentin though the activities around it are the same as in England.

11. Singapore

valentine's day_New_Love_Times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Reports have it that Singapore is the biggest spender on Valentine’s Day around the globe. 60 per cent of the Singaporeans spend between 100 dollars to almost 500 during this season!

12. South Korea

On Valentine’s Day, South Korean women gift men with chocolates while men offer them non-chocolaty candies on the 14th of March, which is the White Day. On April 14th, the Black Friday, the singles who didn’t receive anything on either of the previous days, go to a Chinese-Korean joint and eat black noodles. They do so to lament their single lives!!!

Some quirky traditions

1. Japan

In this country, contrary to the Western culture, on Valentine’s Day women spoil their men bad! Though shy on normal days, the women transform themselves and openly express their affection through lovey dovey gestures on Valentine’s Day!

2. Denmark and Norway

valentine's day_New_Love_Times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Gaekkebrev are tiny funny poems or just rhyming notes that men send the women anonymously. The clue, however, is the number of letters in the man’s name represented by the number of dots.  If the woman guesses correctly, she wins an Easter egg, and if she doesn’t, she has to gift the sender the egg!

Has the Valentine’s Day history bound your belief in this tradition of celebrating love and lovers? If so, book your ‘dates’ and start planning your ‘dates’ by subscribing to our newsletter! 😉

Suggested read: 10 valid reasons why India needs to celebrate Valentine’s Day now more than ever

Important dates for this year!

February 7th – Rose Day

February 8th – Propose Day

February 9th – Chocolate Day

February 10th – Teddy Day

February 11th – Promise Day

February 12th – Hug Day

February 13th – Kiss Day

February 14th – Valentine’s Day

Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Article Name
The Origins: History Of Valentine's Day
Come February 14th, almost everyone celebrates Valentine's Day. But have you ever thought about it's origins? What about the history of Valentine's Day?
Riya Roy

Riya Roy

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.” This Isaac Asimov line, embraces my love for writing in the finest and most desperate way that it is and should be! I was tormented by the earnestness of the written word not very early in my journey. But once smitten, it has helped me devour life twice over; savoring the moment and indulging in its memories. As a flâneuse, I wander to understand the intricacies of human relationships. Realizing that, they are just different manifestations of the same feeling of love, has been my greatest learning. I seek to share its opulence through the words I type.