The History Of Valentines Day

How The “Will You Be Mine?” Holiday Came To Be


Alyssa Bartlett, Writer

People’s earliest memories of Valentine’s Day consist of decorating a box with paper hearts and hoping that classmates’ parents did not skimp out and buy the cheap candy. Valentine’s Day is more than just commercialism and pictures of couples being shot by cupid’s arrow. This day honors the history of Saint Valentine and how he helped couples who fell in love. 

To understand the history of Valentine’s Day we travel back in time to 260 A.D. Gallienus is currently the ruler of the Roman Emperor. During his rule, it was illegal for roman soldiers to get married, let alone practice Christian faith. It so happened that a Saint named Valentine was secretly marrying Christian roman soldiers to their brides. He got thrown into prison for spreading the gospel and scheduled for execution. While he lived in jail, he wrote to couples that he had married and encouraged them in their faith. It just so happened that the prison guard’s daughter was blind. Saint Valentine performed a miracle and healed the girl. Right before his death, he wrote her a letter and signed it “your, Valentine.” Both the letters he wrote to newlyweds and the guard’s daughter inspired the cards that we trade with each other today. 

The first day recognized as Valentine’s Day happened in 496 A.D. and became an official holiday by Pope Gelasius. He wanted to put an end to Lupercalia, a pagan festival celebrating love. Since St. Valentine died a martyr around the date of the festival, he allowed the holiday to honor him. He marked February 14th as Valentine’s Day on the Catholic Church’s Calendar. It only took place later on that Valentine’s day became associated with romantic love despite the Saint’s history with helping newlyweds. Starting in the Renaissance Era, painters depicted Greek and Roman mythology, so Cupid became associated with Valentine’s Day and the holiday started to shift its focus onto romantic love. The idea that he had the power to make anyone fall in love with one shot from his bow and arrow earned him a place on Valentine’s Day cards. Until 1916, however, sending Valentine’s Day cards cost an unnecessary expense and very few got mass produced. However, when Hallmark began making traditional four sided cards filled with images and short poems on love, sending cards really took off. Now up to 145 million Valentine’s Day cards get sent yearly. 

From 496 A.D. to 2021 Valentine’s Day is still celebrated and a great way to remind your loved ones how much you care for them.