Meaning of Valentine’s Day


A photo of two cupids painting a heart red.

Aracely Torres, Staff Writer

Valentine’s Day is a day of love but not a lot of people know the actual meaning of it or the history behind it. The holiday has origins in Roman Festival of Lupercalia held in mid-February. Lupercalia was an ancient pagan festival held each year in Rome on February 15. Although Valentine’s Day shares its name with a martyred Christian saint, some historians believe the holiday is actually an offshoot of Lupercalia. Unlike Valentine’s Day, the Lupercalia festival was a bloody, violent, and sexually-charged celebration awash with animal sacrifice, random matching, and coupling in the hopes of warding off evil spirits and infertility. 

Although no one knows the exact origin of Lupercalia, but it has been traced back as far as the 6th century B.C.  The festival, which celebrated the coming of spring, included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery. The Lupercalia Roman Festival was conducted annually on February 15th under the superintendence of a corporation of priests called Luperci (lupus=Latin: ‘wolf’). At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day. It came to be celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century. 

Although some people believe that St Valentine’s Day was invented by English Poet Geoffrey Chaucer. In his work “Parliament of Foules” he links a tradition of courtly love with celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day, an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received wide attention. There are also several legends surrounding the life of Saint Valentine. The most common is that on one February 14 during the 3rd century A.D., a man named Valentine was executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II after being imprisoned for assisting persecuted Christians and secretly marrying Christian couples in love.

Overall, Valentine’s day is popular in the United States as well as in Britain, Canada, Australia, and it is also celebrated in other countries, including Argentina, France, Mexico, and South Korea. The Holiday has, also, expanded to expressions of affection among relatives and friends.