Valentine’s Day is a joyful holiday that instils feelings of love and gratitude for all; not just those who are celebrating with their partner. Amidst the candy hearts, cards, chocolate boxes, stuffed animals, and pink-and-red decor that fill up all of the local grocery and department stores, the history of Valentine’s Day is often forgotten. We’ve compiled a brief recollection of the ancient history surrounding the day of Saint Valentine just in case you’d like to learn more!
While the history of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in dark mystery, there are certain things that seem to be reliable. It seems that the Valentine’s Day as we know it, full of gentle pink hearts and candy, evolved from an ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia– a festival of fertility in honor of the Roman god Lupercus (also known as Faunus, or Pan in Greek history). In this festival, which originally took place on February 15th, some interesting ancient Roman traditions were carried out and love matches were found. Somewhere along the line, several men by the name of Valentine were executed under Roman orders.
The holiday itself is named after Saint Valentine of Rome, who was imprisoned and later executed for performing marriages for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for spreading Christianity throughout Rome, as Christianity was persecuted under the Roman empire. While various sources offer different accounts of the legend, they all seem to include that Valentine wrote a farewell letter to the daughter of the man who imprisoned him prior to his execution, signing it “Your Valentine”— thus coining the expression we use on the holiday to this day!
Since the ancient Roman times, the holiday has seen much evolution. As courtship became increasingly popular throughout the ages, gifts of candies, flowers, and even keys (to unlock the giver’s heart) were exchanged in the celebrating countries. We here at Roma’s still think that nothing beats a home cooked meal for your sweetheart.