Then and Now: The history of Valentine’s Day

The origins of Valentine’s Day

The Puyallup Post


Joe Dennis


For many people, Valentine’s Day seems like another holiday that doesn’t serve a religious purpose, even though it has traditional Christian and ancient Roman roots. Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Mexico and is not consider a public holiday. Originally, Valentine’s Day began as an ancient Roman festival known as Lupercalia celebrating fertility.

During Lupercalia, men sacrificed goats and dogs, removed their skin and whipped the women with the bloodied hides. Romans believed that these women would become more fertile if they were beaten with these hides.

Lupercalia was later viewed as “non-Christian” and outlawed during the rise of Christianity nearing the end of the fifth century. This Pagan holiday was changed and renamed to pay respect to the Christian martyr who went by the name of Valentine.

The idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day of romance arose back in the Middle Ages in England and France. The popularity of Valentine’s Day rose during the 19th century with the exchange of letters. The letter showed a small amount of appreciation, love and affection no matter a person’s social class.

The first valentine was sent in 1415 from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after he was captured during the Battle of Agincourt. The card that Charles sent to his wife has been preserved in the British Library in London, England.

In 1969, Saint Valentine’s Day was renamed and was removed from the Catholic calendar of saints. It was not until the 20th century when there was the first exchange of manufactured cards which were much cheaper and easier compared to writing out letters. Ever since, these manufactured cards have been a way of sending love and greetings on Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day has become a commercialized success here in the United States with the exchange of chocolates, flowers, cards and jewelry. According to the 2012 Valentine’s Day statistics, the average annual spending on gifts in the United States is $13.19 billion.

Other nontraditional elements and events have been included in the celebration of Valentine’s Day. On Feb. 9, 2013 a 5K run known as the Love ‘em or Leave ’em Valentine’s Day Dash will take place at Green Lake Park in Seattle.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Then and Now: The history of Valentine’s Day

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