St. Valentine's Day: Why do we celebrate it?

We all know what February 14th represents – but why?

By jimmy johnson
Friday, 28th January 2022, 11:18 am
Valentine's Day Candles
Valentine's Day Candles

Valentine’s Day, in the modern world, is a celebration of love – it’s a day to spend with your partner or significant other (assuming you have one). But it didn’t come out of nowhere – in fact, its origins are considerably more barbaric than you might imagine.

It’s generally a story associated with religious martyrdom – giving your life to possibly improve the lives of others. Saint Valentine’s execution, the man the day is named after, is the most famous story connected with the day of love.

In legend, Valentine was a priest in ancient Roman who was persecuted and subsequently executed for liberating imprisoned Christians. Further retellings of the story include the details that Valentine cured his jailer’s daughter’s blindness and sent her a letter before being executed, which was signed as “Your Valentine”.

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As such, the Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 on February 14th – the day Valentine was killed. In reality, there were numerous Christian Martyrs with the name of “Valentine” – however, the inaugural Feast of Saint Valentine is factual.

So how did we get from a religious martyr’s execution to flowers, chocolates and incessant canoodling?

Some pinpoint Valentine’s Day’s romantic origins to 1797, when The Young Man’s Valentine Writer was published. It contained a plethora of romantic messages and soliloquys, which helped to spawn the idea of Valentine’s Day cards. By 1835, a rough estimate of 60,000 Valentine’s Day cards were posted across the country of the UK.

From there, Valentine’s Day cards underwent mass production and the day had been firmly converted into a day where we celebrate romance. Of course, it didn’t stop there. Valentine’s Day gifts now take all shapes and sizes – they can essentially be anything in the modern world, so long as they’ve come from a place of love.

Valentine’s Day is a worldwide tradition, though it is banned in some non-Christian countries. It does not always have the same date – for example, in Brazil, it is on the 12th of June, while in Japan, their “day of love” takes places on Christmas Eve.