The Story of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day (February 14th) is traditionally a time for lovers and spouses to exchange candy, flowers and other gifts. But this modern holiday actually originated 1,500 years ago, in 5th century Rome as a tribute to St. Valentine, a Catholic bishop.

Going back to 300 B.C., Romans had practiced a pagan celebration in mid-February commemorating young men’s rite of passage, featuring a lottery in which young men would draw the names of teenage girls from a box. The girl picked by each young man would be his sexual companion for the rest of the year. Pope Gelasius, understandably not pleased with the custom, ordered a “slight” change in the lottery. Instead of the names of teenage girls, the box would contain the names of saints. Both men and women were to draw names from the box, and they would have to emulate the ways of the saint whose name they drew during the rest of the year. Not surprisingly, young Roman men were not thrilled with the rule change.

The Church looked for a suitable patron saint of love for the holiday. They decided upon St. Valentine, who, in AD 270 had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius. Claudius had decided that married men made poor soldiers, and banned marriage. But Valentine would secretly marry young couples that came to him. When Claudius found out, he had Valentine stoned and beheaded. While Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer. Through his love and faith, he miraculously healed her from her blindness before his death. Before he was taken to his death, he signed a farewell message to her, “From your Valentine.” The phrase has been used on his day ever since.


This article was written by Stan Dubin. Additional information can be found at the blog: Marriage Success and in the book: When the Thrill Is Gone. You may republish this article in your newsletter or at your web site or blog providing the entire article is kept intact, including the contact links.