Valentine’s Day Origins

Staff Writer: Amanda Lloyd

Following Christmas and Halloween, Valentine’s Day is the third most commercialized holiday in the United States. It is commonly known as a “Hallmark Holiday”, which means that the modern ideas of the holiday were invented mainly for commercial purposes. The celebrations and purpose that we associate with the holiday today has changed drastically from what it was 100 years ago and even more so 500 years ago.

 

Valentine’s Day wasn’t always chalky candy hearts, “I love you” notes, and teddy bears. The exact year of Valentine’s day’s origin is unclear, but historians believe the holiday to have originated in ancient Rome.

 

From February 13-15, Romans would celebrate Lupercalia, which was a holiday used to celebrate fertility. The Roman men would sacrifice a goat, or a dog then celebrate with a feast and drinking. The Romans also had match-making lotteries, which may have influenced the whole dating aspect we associate Valentine’s Day with today.

 

Valentine’s Day is named after St. Valentine who was executed by Emperor Claudius II in the third century AD. In the 5th century, St. Valentine’s day was combined with Lupercalia. The festivities of Lupercalia were now only celebrated on the 14th of February, and as the years passed many of the rituals like sacrificing animals ended, but other rituals like the match-making lotteries continued.

 

Centuries later, in the 1500’s, Valentine’s day started gaining popularity again. This is when the modern version of Valentine’s Day truly started. People began making an effort of showing friends, family, and spouses how much the loved them on February 14.

 

In the 1600’s, William Shakespeare mentioned Valentine’s Day in his plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream and in Hamlet, where he wrote that if two single people meet on Valentine’s Day morning they will fall in love and will most likely get married.

 

In the mid 1800’s, the holiday started becoming more romantic, but it wasn’t until the 1900’s where Valentine’s Day completely became a day for romantic love rather than platonic love with St. Valentine completely forgotten.

 

In the mid-1900’s, Valentine’s day became a Westernized commercial holiday where it was expected for couples to buy each other presents. Then Valentine’s Day cards came into the picture along with chocolates, stuffed animals, and jewelry.

 

bear rose

Photo credits: gearbest. Pictured is a mix of roses and teddy bears, two of the most popular Valentine’s Day gifts.

 

“Valentine’s day is the worst holiday because no one loves me,” says Woodstock High School sophomore Kaetlin Bunner.

 

In the United States, in the 2000’s, it is all about the rose bouquets, boxes of chocolates, and teddy bears. But what about the rest of the world?

 

Denmark didn’t start celebrating Valentine’s Day until the 1990’s. Instead of giving their loved ones roses they give white flowers called Snowdrops to their friends and families.

 

 

 

snowdrop

photo credits: gardening know how. This image shows a Snowdrop, a flower that Danes usually exchange with friends, family members, and other loved ones on Valentine’s Day.

 

The Danish are also big on Valentine’s day cards. They exchange love notes, gift cards, photographs or any other type of card. The Danish men sometimes write “gaekkebrev” (a joke letter) to their female loved ones. These letters usually have a poem written inside of them but instead of the men signing their names at the bottom they use dots, each dot corresponding with a letter in the man’s name. If the receiver of the card guesses who the card is from, they get a gift from the sender of the card.

 

In Brazil, they don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, but they do celebrate a very similar holiday on June 13 called St. Anthony’s Day. St. Anthony was known to help couples with their relationship problems and even help set other couples up. He was the real-life Cupid.

 

Brazilians also exchange gifts such as chocolates, roses, and other flowers. Similar to Americans, the Brazilians will usually have a date night on Valentine’s Day or one of the days surrounding the romantic holiday.

 

“I like the candy my mom buys me for Valentine’s Day, I guess it makes me feel less lonely,” says Woodstock High School sophomore Allison Mascitti.

 

In Argentina, along with Valentine’s Day they celebrate Sweetness Week from July 13-20. Where, like on Valentine’s Day in America, chocolates, flowers and other gifts are exchanged between friends, families, and lovers.

 

“I don’t care too much for Valentine’s Day, but Galentine’s Day is a different story,” says Caitlin Kimpe, a Woodstock High School sophomore.

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