The History of St. Valentine's Day
The History of St. Valentine's Day

The History of St. Valentine's Day

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Celebrated every year around the world on February 14th, St. Valentine's Day, or Valentine's Day, as it is also known, is a holiday observed in the name of love and Saint Valentine. During the time of Emperor Claudius II, a Christian priest named Saint Valentine gave the very first Valentine greeting before being executed. February 14th was later officially chosen as the Valentine's Day by Pope Galasius to "Christianize" the pagan festival of Lupercalia that occurred during the same month. Now, the holiday is associated with love, romance and the exchanging gifts between loved ones. In this video, we learn more about St. Valentine's Day.

This is the day we celebrate love. Welcome to and today we’ll be learning more about Valentine’s Day.


Valentine’s Day is celebrated annually on February 14th. On this day, people exchange greeting cards and presents in the name of love and Saint Valentine, which is why it is also known as St. Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine.

Christian Traditions

In the Christian tradition, there were several martyred saints with the name Valentine or Valentinus. According to legend, one of these Valentines was a priest who went against the orders of Roman Emperor Claudius II by conducting marriages between soldiers and their loved ones. These actions ultimately led to his execution.

Saint Valentine

However, before being put to death, Saint Valentine cured his jailer’s daughter from blindness and fell in love with her. His last communication with her was a letter signed “from your Valentine,” and this marked the very first Valentine greeting.

First Saint Valentine’s Day

To honor him, Pope Galasius I made February 14th Saint Valentine’s Day in 496 AD. Some believe the choice of this particular date was an effort by the Christians to curb the celebration of a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia. Taking place between the 13th and 15th of the month, the festival honored a Roman god and the founders of Rome through rituals of sacrifice and feasting.

February 14th

The association of romantic love with Valentine’s Day did not actually emerge until the Middle Ages, when a poem by Englishman Geoffrey Chaucer linked February 14th with the start of the mating period for birds.

Exchanging Cards

As Valentine’s Day earned more literary mentions, it grew in popularity over the centuries. People soon adopted the tradition of exchanging romantic handwritten notes with one another. Then, in the 1800s, a woman named Esther Howland became inspired by the fancy and intricate cards being made in England. By spearheading the mass production of similar cards in the United States, she became known as “The Mother of the American Valentine.”


During the next century, the celebration of Valentine’s Day expanded to include gift-giving, of items like flowers, chocolate and jewelry. These tokens of affection are exchanged not only between romantic partners but also between loved ones and friends.


With billions of dollars spent on cards and gifts annually, Valentine’s Day has been criticized in recent years for being too commercial. Regardless, it is widespread in popular culture and continues to be the subject of literature, movies, television episodes and more.

Around the World

Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world, especially in Europe and North America. Many other countries also have a day dedicated to love, though it may have another name, fall on other dates or involve different customs.

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