The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The History of Valentine’s Day: Why Do We Celebrate?

People celebrate Valentine’s Day every year, but does anyone really know its history?
Photo Courtesy / YouTube Catholic Online

People across the world celebrate their loved ones in commemoration of Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 each year. However, people might not know why the holiday is so widely celebrated in the first place.

There are several different stories surrounding the origins of Valentine’s Day, but the most recognized one follows the story of St. Valentine, a Roman priest in the third century. Valentine is associated with courtly love and was dedicated to his faith and spreading love. 

One legend tells St. Valentine vowing to restore a judge’s blind daughter, and if he succeeded, the judge would do anything for the saint. Valentine restored her vision, and freed all Christian inmates — only to be arrested again later for trying to convert people to Christianity. 

When the Emperor claimed that single men were better soldiers than married men, he outlawed marriage. Valentine despised this ruling and performed marriages in secret. Once his actions were discovered, he was put to death and was canonized by Pope Gelasius in 496 AD. The first St. Valentine’s Day was born. 

The holiday also has origins in the Roman festival “Lupercalia,” which celebrated the coming of spring — including rituals of fertility rites, pairing couples through a lottery system andRoman priests sacrificing various animals for fertility and purification. The hides of these animals were used to slap women after being dipped in blood — far from romantic traditions performed on Valentine’s Day today.

Another legend is that a martyred priest signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter. That could be where the idea of notes, treats and flowers from your “valentines” comes from. While there are many historical stories surrounding the origins of Valentine’s Day, St. John’s University students reflect on what they remember learning about the holiday in school.

“I used to think it was just a day that people would bring in candy during elementary school, I never really considered the history of it,” says Dawson Hughes, senior at the University. 

Many students remember their elementary school Valentine’s Day experience years later. “In my elementary school, we decorated mailboxes out of shoeboxes and would put valentines and candy in them,” said sophomore Jayla Wilson. Other than this, I never really celebrated or knew the history. We never learned about St. Valentine himself.” 

When celebrating this Valentine’s Day, we can find interest in its history, but instead of gifting animal hides to your loved ones, opt for chocolates instead!

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About the Contributor
Olivia Rainson, Social Media Manager & Asst. Features Editor
Olivia Rainson is a junior English major and creative writing minor serving as the Social Media Manager. She also works at the University Writing Center and is on the editorial board of the Intersections Literary Magazine. Olivia has been with the Torch since the beginning of her sophomore year, and when she isn’t writing, you can find her reading with an iced coffee. Olivia can be reached at [email protected]  

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