A History of St Valentine’s Day

By Tim Lambert

The Origins of St Valentine’s Day

The Romans held a fertility festival called Lupercalia in mid-February. However, it’s not clear if there is any link between the Ancient festival and modern St Valentine’s Day. 14 February was not associated with romantic love until the late Middle Ages. In the 14th century, people believed that birds chose their mates on 14 February.

St Valentine lived in the 3rd century but very little is known about him. According to one tradition, the Roman Emperor forbade young men to marry as he believed single men made better soldiers. However, Valentine disobeyed him and married young men to young women. As a result, Valentine was executed about 270. In 496 the Pope made 14 February his feast day. Today St Valentine is the patron saint of happy marriages. He is also the patron saint of beekeepers!

Modern St Valentine’s Day

The oldest known Valentine’s note was written in the 15th century by a Frenchman, the Duke of Orleans to his wife. (He had been captured by the English during a war and was a prisoner in the Tower of London). The earliest known English Valentine’s note was written by a woman, Margery Brews to her fiance John Paston in 1477. Originally people wrote notes. In the 18th century, they began making Valentine’s Day cards. In 1849 the box of chocolates was introduced. The first box of chocolates in a heart-shaped box for St Valentine’s Day was sold in 1861.

On St Valentine’s Day in 1859, Oregon became the 33rd state of the USA. On 14 February 1876, the telephone was patented. Finally, on 14 February 1912, Arizona became the 48th state of the USA.

Last revised 2024