Valentine's Day 2020

A Short History of Valentine's Day

March 7, 2019
Valentine Cupids

How exactly did Valentine’s Day get started? Here’s the short history. (It starts out rather dark!) If you’re celebrating loved ones, we have great Valentine’s Day quotes for cards—plus, mouthwatering recipes and beautiful flower ideas!

When Is Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day occurs annually on February 14. See which day of the week the holiday will fall on this year:

Year Valentine’s Day
2020 Friday, February 14
2021 Sunday, February 14
2022 Monday, February 14

History of Valentine’s Day

Although a Christian bishop named Valentine was martyred on February 14 in A.D. 271, Valentine’s Day has its origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia.

Lupercalia was a fertility festival in honor of Lupa, the wolf who was said to have suckled Romulus and Remus (who went on to found the city of Rome) and dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. This was the season to start sowing seeds and hope for a fertile year of crops.

The Roman festival involved drunk young men running through the streets naked, women being smeared in animal blood, and unusual fertility rites. Ever heard the dating phrase, “being hit on”?  In this case, men literally hit on women by whipping them with the hides of the animals they had just sacrificed.

stval.jpgApparently, many women were willing participants, lining up for the festival, believed this would make them fertile. Young men also drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would lie together during the festival, in an effort to conceive.

When the Roman Empire became Christian, it evolved into the feast of St. Valentine—who was martyred at this time.  The church evolved the pagan rituals into a less bloody, raucous affair and attempted to tie the holiday to the saints. However, much of the love and romance of the day persisted.

Who Was St. Valentine?

In the church, Saint Valentine of Rome is a third-century Roman saint commonly associated with “courtly love.”

Although not much of St. Valentine’s life is reliably known, and whether or not the stories involve two different saints by the same name is also not officially decided, one of the St. Valentines was martyred and then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome. Archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14 as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, because so little is known about him. However, the church still recognizes him as a saint. St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, happy marriages, love, lovers, and young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses and his feast day is celebrated on February 14.

The more romantic nature of Valentine’s Day may have derived during the Middle Ages, when it was believed that birds paired couples in mid-February. Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized this day of love in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Handmade paper cards were even exchanged in the Middle Ages.


History of the “Valentine” Card

By the early 1600s, handmade Valentine’s Day cards were customarily sent from admirers to sweethearts. Around the year 1800, the first commercial cards appeared. Cards were usually sent anonymously.

As early as 1822, an English official reported having to hire extra postal workers on this Valentine’s Day. In 1849, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, started selling quality valentines so popular that she was called “Mother of the American Valentine.”

The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines and it’s been popular card-giving (and chocolate-indulging!) holiday ever since.

Valentine’s Day Quotes, Sayings, and Poetry

Below are some quotes and ideas for dressing up a lovely Valentine’s Day. Or, see how to make a homemade card!

With your valentine be cuddled,
By a fireplace happily huddled.
–The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 2010

  • Love does not consist of gazing at each other but of looking together in the same direction.

  • There is no remedy for love but to love more.

  • The greatest love is a mother’s, then comes a dog’s, then a sweetheart’s
    –Polish proverb

  • Love is the reward of love.

  • If you would be loved, love and be lovable

  • Follow love and it will flee thee; Flee love and it will follow thee.

  • True love begins when nothing is looked for in return.
    –Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer (1900-44)

  • Falling in love is like falling down stairs—we never can tell exactly how the thing was did.
    –Josh Billings, American humorist (1818-85)

  • Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.
    –William Shakespeare, English playwright (1564-1616)

  • Where there is love, there is no darkness.

  • Faults are thick where love is thin.

  • True love never grows old.

  • Works and not words are the proof of love.

  • Absence sharpens love; presence strengthens it.

  • The best smell is bread, the best savor salt, the best love that of children. [no credit]

  • Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.
    –Albert Einstein

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day quote? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Strawberry crepes

Valentines Day Recipes

Will you be baking your sweetheart something special this holiday?

Valentine’s Day goes hand-in-hand with sweets, so why not try making one of our delicious Valentine’s Day recipes?

For the chocolate lovers, see our best chocolate dessert recipes. We’ve tested and made all of these chocolate recipes ourselves. (Someone had to do it!)

red roses

Valentine’s Day Flowers

Red roses seem to be the popular flower for this loved ones as they symbolize love. Or, be different! See our list of flower symbolism and find a meaning that suits your loved one.

Also, our Almanac gardener shares wonderful flowers with romantic names.

Or, how about creating a garden of love? See ideas for a love garden.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at The Old Farmer’s Almanac!


Reader Comments

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Valentine's Day

Sometimes Cupid's arrows are ill aimed.


"Love has its own particular point of view. It sees everything larger than life. Nothing is too ornate, too fanciful, too dramatic. Love demands the theatrical - and then transfigures it. It turns the grotesque into the lovely, as a child does. With it, we can see what we wish to see in other people; without it, we can't see anything at all. We can search forever, never find."

Charles Beaumont
"Passage on the Lady Anne"
The Twilight Zone, 1963

vintage valentines

It's fun to make valentine's day with friends, too. My friends and I get together and make valentines, cutting up cool paper and using glitter and vintage stickers. Then we send them to older neighbors or friends with a big question mark to surprise them!

Love poems

Here's another quote I heard today: "The best thing to hold onto in life is each other." - Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

"The best thing in life is to hold on to each other".
So true, learn to accept their faults, live in harmony.

Harry might ask me out. I

Harry might ask me out. I CAN'T WAIT! I love Harold Edward Styles! <3