For many, February 14th is the ultimate romantic date. Known as the day of love, Valentine’s Day is a time when we can share how we really feel about the people we care about with gifts, meaningful moments, and handwritten letters.
Yet, despite the global popularity of this festive occasion, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding Valentine’s Day. The origins of Valentine’s Day go back a lot further than most people realize. While people may not have been stressing over finding the perfect gift in the Middle Ages, they weren’t entirely unfamiliar with the concepts of Valentine’s Day as we know it today.
How did Valentine’s Day Start?
There are a number of stories about the beginnings of St Valentine’s Day. The concept is connected to everything from poems to parties and even executions.
The earliest potential origin for Valentine’s Day was introduced in the form of the pagan holiday, Lupercalia. This centuries-old celebration took place in the middle of February and celebrated fertility with some rather grisly, sacrificial rituals.
It might not be the most romantic story connected with Valentine’s Day, but the holiday was one of the most popular in many communities, and many continued to celebrate it after Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire. When Pope Gelasius took power in the late 15th century, he declared February 14th to be a day to celebrate the martyred St Valentine, and the holiday effectively replaced Lupercalia completely.
Where does the name come from?
Valentine’s Day traditions around the world frequently include the exchanging of gifts like candy hearts and red roses. But why exactly do we use these gifts to show our affection to our loved ones?
The reason could have something to do with the original St Valentine, though he’s somewhat shrouded in mystery. One legend says Saint Valentine was an individual who refused to convert to paganism, and was therefore executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Before he was executed, he was also able to miraculously cure the daughter of his jailer.
Other stories say someone else named Saint Valentine—a bishop of Terni—is actually the patron saint of this holiday. This historical figure was unfortunately also executed, but he was a Roman priest known for conducting weddings for soldiers who weren’t allowed to marry. This Saint Valentine also wore a ring with a symbol of Cupid on it (the traditional Roman god of love), which helped soldiers recognize him. He was even said to hand out paper hearts to remind Christians of their adoration for God.
Some people believe the true origin of Valentine’s Day as we know it now didn’t emerge until hundreds of years later. One University professor argues that the poet Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the first people to officially connect Valentine’s Day to love. Later poets like Shakespeare further enhanced the connection between Valentine’s Day and love with romantic sonnets—hence the association with flowers and romantic gifts.
Why is Valentine’s Day Celebrated Today?
So, why do we still celebrate Valentine’s Day today? Valentine’s Day cards and gift ideas are everywhere in late January and early February. Restaurants offer romantic meal options, and party providers plan huge celebrations.
Throughout the world, Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to celebrate romantic love, and show our gratitude for the people we care about. It’s a chance to give your loved one a sweet treat, or a gift to show them how much they mean to you.
Many people use Valentine’s Day as a way of showing appreciation and affection—not just for their partners, but for other people in their lives. Today, it’s possible to buy Valentine’s Day gifts specifically designed for a family member or friend. Some women celebrate “Galentine’s Day”–an alternative to the traditional Valentine’s Day that’s all about spending time with your gal pals.
There are even people who prefer to celebrate Valentine’s Day when they’re single, buying gifts for themselves as a way to enjoy their independence and practice self-care.
Notably, there are still some places around the world where Valentine’s Day celebrations are less common. In Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, the 14th of February isn’t widely recognized, mostly because the Christian celebration contradicts the religions of many families. Some countries, like India, even avoid Valentine’s Day for political reasons.
When is Valentine’s Day Celebrated?
In all parts of the world where Valentine’s Day is celebrated, it falls on the same day every year. That means if you’re planning on making some big plans, or buying a greeting card for your loved one, you’ll need to get started before the 14th of February. (Psst… Spoonful of Comfort lets you pre-order so you can get a limited-edition gift there on time!)
The official date of Valentine’s Day was declared by Pope Gelasius in the 5th century, and it’s remained the same ever since.
How do you know what to gift on Valentine’s Day?
You might buy something specific to your other half’s interests, or choose a theme for your holiday celebration. You can also stick with traditional gifts like heart-shaped cookies, chocolates, and flowers.
Some people even prefer to avoid giving a Valentine’s day gift at all. Couples might go to a restaurant or plan a date instead, then exchange hand-written cards with heartfelt notes.
For most people, the best gifts on Valentine’s Day are personal. They show your deep love and understanding of another person, as well as your affection for them. Sweet treats tell us our partner thinks we add extra sugar to their lives. Flowers remind us of romance in bloom. Heart-shaped cookies and romance embody the symbol of love.
If you’re looking for something extra special to treat your other half, you could even consider some beautiful Valentine’s Day gift baskets from Spoonful of Comfort, which combine heartfelt, delicious food with fun extras like fluffy socks and candles.
However you choose to spend Valentine’s Day, if you’re with someone you care about, it’s sure to be a wonderful experience.