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#ValentineDay2018: The complicated origins of Valentine’s Day

By Patricia Uyeh.

Every February 14th is Valentine’s Day and it sees lovers expressing their love for each other, sometimes in dramatic ways. Some wonder about the origin of the day and today is the lucky day you get to know more about the origins of Valentine’s Day.


A school of thought believes the tradition of Valentine’s Day found its origins in a Roman pagan festival of fertility known as Lupercalia, dedicated to Faunus, the god of agriculture.

The celebrations involved men picking names of women from a box and they would become a pair during the festival. Sometimes, this would also culminate in marriage.

By the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius chose the time of Lupercalia celebrations as the date to commemorate Saint Valentine, thus leading to the association of Valentine’s Day with love and romance.

However, many believe that the Valentine’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the death anniversary of Saint Valentine who died in mid-February in AD 270.

Many historical texts suggest that the saint whose name is associated with the celebration could probably have been more than one man. Roman Catholic Church officially recognised Valentine as a saint and he died around 270 AD. He is also believed to be a priest who helped Christian couples who were in love with each other to secretly get married and was hence, beheaded by Emperor Claudius II.  The emperor had prohibited men from getting married as he thought single men made for more dedicated and better soldiers. Valentine was against this idea and would therefore, facilitate their weddings.

Another theory is that St Valentine could be the Bishop of Terni, who was martyred on Rome’s outskirts, again, by Claudius II. Many even believe that these two could be the same person.

Another interesting theory is that St Valentine is one of the characters in the writings of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. He would infuse real-life events with the fictional characters and would leave many confused about the authenticity of these records. Before he published a poem in which he mentioned St Valentine, there was apparently no actual record of Valentine’s Day.

The valentine celebration is often highlighted by spending time with your lover, exchange of gifts, chocolates, wine and other finer things of life. Others might choose to go on  a vacation, have a romantic dinner, watch movies or enjoy games.

However you decide to spend the day, don’t forget to show love to everyone and don’t let it end today.

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