"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

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The history of Valentine’s Day

Although+this+is+not+what+the+holiday+was+about+originally%2C+the+aisles+at+Hy-Vee+show+how+Valentine%E2%80%99s+Day+has+become+commercialized.+
Laila Miller
Although this is not what the holiday was about originally, the aisles at Hy-Vee show how Valentine’s Day has become commercialized.

Valentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated by giving flowers, chocolates and cards. However, I found myself wondering where this holiday came from and how it turned into a day of giving gifts to loved ones.

The true meaning of this holiday is not completely known and there are actually a couple of legends behind the origin of Valentine’s Day. St. Valentine was martyred on Feb. 14 in 270 AD, and Valentine’s Day is to observe his burial.

One legend states that St. Valentine, a priest in third-century Rome, illegally married couples after Emperor Claudius II placed a ban on marriage. Unfortunately, he was caught and sentenced to death.

Another legend believes that St. Valentine helped Christians escape prisons in Rome until he was captured and later killed for his actions. While in prison, he wrote a letter to a young girl he had fallen in love with, supposed to have been his jailor’s daughter, and signed it “From your Valentine.”

On the other hand, some historians believe that the history of this holiday is rooted in Lupercalia, which was a Pagan fertility festival. This festival was celebrated on Feb. 15 in ancient Rome and was dedicated to Faunus, who was the Roman god of agriculture. The day consisted of sacrificing animals and smacking women with animal hides, which they believed would encourage fertility. However, Lupercalia was then outlawed at the end of the 5th century, which is also when Feb. 14 was declared as St. Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius.

In addition to these legends, people in France and England, during the Middle Ages, thought of Feb. 14 as the day that birds’ mating season began, “which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance,” according to History.com. Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet, “was the first to record St. Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration in his 1375 poem ‘Parliament of Foules,’ writing, ‘For this was sent on Saint Valentine’s day / When every foul cometh thee to choose his mate.’”

There is also history behind common symbols and traditions of Valentine’s Day.

  • Cupid has a history that can be traced back to 700 B.C. The Greek god of love was Eros, who was then portrayed as an image of a little boy with a bow and arrow during the 4th century BCE, which is the Cupid we know today.
  • The first valentine was sent by a French medieval Duke named Charles to his wife in 1415 after he was captured in the Battle of Agincourt.
  • Giving flowers to show your love occurred in the 17th century, which was when King Charles II of Sweden, “learned the ‘language of flowers’ — which pairs different flowers with specific meanings — on a trip to Persia, and subsequently introduced the tradition to Europe,” as stated in Good Housekeeping.
  • In the 1840s, Valentine’s Day cards began to be mass-produced in the United States. Esther A. Howland, known as the “Mother of the American Valentine,” is the one who commercialized Valentine’s cards. “Today, according to Hallmark, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year,” as said in History.com.

Rome News-Tribune states that Americans spent $26 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2023, which shows how much the holiday has commercialized over the years.

To read more in-depth about the history of Valentine’s Day, visit History.com and Good Housekeeping.

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About the Contributor
Laila Miller
Laila Miller, Staff Writer
Laila Miller is a junior and first-year staff member for the Statesman. At LHS, she is on the cross country and track team. Outside of school, Miller is on the Sioux Falls Swim Team. When she is not in the pool or out for a run, you can find Miller procrastinating on her latest school assignments, drinking an iced coffee, listening to music or overthinking everything.   
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