Lavish dates, love songs, long and thoughtful love letters—these Valentine’s day traditions might be the first things you associate with the popular lovers’ holiday. However, there is a long and cultured history of Valentine’s day that many are unaware of.
February has historically been known as the month of love in ancient Christian and Roman tradition; however, the holiday was originally meant to honor Saint Valentine’s death and burial, not just romance. Saint Valentine, a priest from third-century Rome, was sentenced to death after secretly and illegally marrying young couples after the Emperor banned marriage for young men. It is rumored that Valentine sent letters to a lover while imprisoned; according to legend, he signed his letters by stating, “From your Valentine,” a saying still used today on Valentine’s day love letters.
Additionally, Catholic Romans might have decided to celebrate Valentine’s day in mid-February in order to “Christianize” the pagan holiday of Lupercalia. During this holiday, Roman priests would sacrifice a goat and a dog as well as burn the names of all of the eligible women in order to boost fertility in the community. Lupercalia was eventually banned from the Christian church, and was replaced by Valentine’s day.
So, while the modern Valentine’s day that we know now is filled with cheesy confessions of love and heart-covered notes, the true history of Valentine’s day traces back to ancient tradition.