November 30, 2023

The true history of Valentine’s Day

For all of you in a relationship, I hope you are prepared for this week’s festivities. For those of us who are not, discounted chocolate is just as good, if not better, than chocolate at full price. 

Valentine’s Day originates from the legend of Saint Valentine, but who even is Saint Valentine? 

According to an article published on titled “Who Was the Real Saint Valentine? The Many Myths Behind the Inspiration for Valentine’s Day,” the legend of Saint Valentine is full of mystery. 

Saint Valentine has been many people; one version of the Saint was a Roman priest who officiated secret weddings in the third century. Unfortunately, his story ended with his decapitation on Feb. 14 in retaliation for the healing of a blind girl. 

Another version said that Saint Valentine was the Bishop of Terni, a man who also officiated secret weddings, healed a sick child and was decapitated on Feb. 14. 

Both of those stories have little concrete evidence backing them. The stories both involve the healing of a sick child, a massive conversion to Christianity by the household of the sick child and a beheading on Feb. 14.

But, both stories claim different people preformed very similar acts, creating more mystery about the legend of Saint Valentine. Furthermore, those are not the only two stories regarding Saint Valentine. 

There are more than 50 stories about Saints with the name Valentine, but the two most credible are the two I previously mentioned. It is unclear if those stories are two separate ones or if, somewhere along the way, one story became confused and diverged into two. 

It is also still unclear whether or not Saint Valentine ever even existed.

Another piece of the mystery behind Valentine’s Day is that the day was not always about love.

Valentine’s Day only became a day of romance in the Middle Ages, to the credit of an English poet by the name of Geoffrey Chaucer. His poem, “Parliament of Fowls,” is about a group of birds who choose their mates for the year on “…Seynt Valentynes day,” which falls in the early spring. 

So, the only correlation between Feb. 14 and Valentine’s Day is that a hypothetical Saint named Valentine was potentially beheaded on Feb. 14 for healing an otherwise unhealable child and birds choosing their mates. 

Romance becoming a part of Valentine’s Day seems slightly odd, especially after learning about the gruesome deaths of the two most credible Saint Valentines. 

In addition to their gruesome deaths, there was no mention of romance on Feb. 14 in either legend. In fact, the only time romance is mentioned in these two stories is in regards to the secret weddings.

Later in the same article, I learned that Valentine’s Day was actually associated with a different Roman holiday called Lupercalia. 

Christians tried to replace Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15, with Valentine’s Day as an attempt to push Christianity on the Romans. 

The closest parallel between both holidays – and this is a direct quote – “the Roman festival involved two nearly naked young men slapping everyone around them with pieces of goat skin.”

Back then, some people believed that being hit with skin helped when it came to conception and childbirth.

Being superstitious was a common occurrence, so events like this happened more often than you’d think.

So, let’s recount everything we have learned so far: Two men who could be Saint Valentine were both beheaded on Feb. 14, romance did not become a part of Valentine’s Day until Chaucer mentioned mating birds and Valentine’s Day was replacing a different holiday that involved goatskin slapping.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Enjoy your history of beheadings, bird mating, the feeling of being slapped by goatskin…and love.


  • Sophie Makhoul

    Sophie is a junior History and Education major. In her free time, she likes to cuddle with her cat, read books and write new stories.

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