Mysterious history of Valentine’s Day

Emilee Tosh, Campus Reporter

The origin of Valentine’s Day is filled with mystery and controversy.

According to “History of Valentine’s Day” from, there are all kinds of legends surrounding the holiday, but there are a few more well known, and widely accepted stories.

It is believed that the Catholic Church wanted to place the feast of St. Valentine in the middle of February in order to “Christianize” Lupercalia, a pagan festival.

Lupercalia, which usually took place February fifteenth, was a fertility festival.

It was to honor the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, and the brothers Romulus and Remus. Lupercalia was able to survive Christianity, but due to being “un-Christian”, was outlawed.

This was followed by Pope Gelasius declaring February fourteenth as St. Valentine’s Day.

Although it was declared Valentine’s Day at the end of the fifth century, it wasn’t a recognized as a romantic holiday until English poet Geoffrey Chaucer’s 1375 poem “Parliament of Foules”.

He wrote the line “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

Soon, the idea of Cupid was developed.

The main basis of this was Eros, the Greek god of Love.

He is said to have been immortal and had a habit of toying with the emotions of Gods and humans alike.

He would use his golden arrows to hit unsuspecting lovers to create feelings of love and admiration.

Later on, in the Hellenistic period, he began to be depicted as a “mischievous, chubby child”, which we think of to this day.

The first “valentine” love letter in recorded history was written by Charles, the Duke of Orléans, in 1415.

Charles, a relative of King Charles the VI of France, became a war prisoner during a fight between noblemen for control over France.

During his imprisonment, he wrote a letter to his wife in which he referred to her as his valentine.

“My very gentle Valentine, since for me you were born too soon and I for you was born too late. God forgives him who has estranged me from you for the whole year,” Charles wrote. “I am already sick of love, my very gentle Valentine.”

By the eighteenth century, it became more and more common for people of all social classes to give Valentine’s Day greetings to friends and lovers alike.

In the early 1910s, a company that later became Hallmark began selling cards specifically for the holiday which led to the heavily commercialized Valetine’s Day celebrated now.

According to, Valentine’s Day spending generates a multi-billion dollar figure each year: $20.7 billion in 2019, $19.6 billion in 2018, $18.2 billion in 2017, $19.7 billion in 2016, $18.9 billion in 2015, $17.3 billion in 2014, and $18.6 billion in 2013.

The top five purchases made in the United States for Valentine’s Day are candy, greeting cards, evenings out, flowers and jewelry. Fifty two percent of the population purchases candy for the holiday, 43 percent purchase greeting cards, 34 percent spend money on an evening out, 37 percent purchase flowers and 21 percent spend money on jewelry.

This year Americans are expected to spend 21.8 billion dollars celebrating the holiday in various ways.


Emilee Tosh can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].