The Student News Site of Taipei American School




The history of Valentine’s Day: Goat sacrifices to Single’s Awareness Day

The history of Valentine’s Day: Goat sacrifices to Single’s Awareness Day


by Charlotte C. and Catherine L.

Have you ever wondered about the history of Valentine’s Day? It wasn’t always flowers and chocolate.

In fact, Valentine’s Day has a violent past.

The holiday began in ancient Rome as Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival which honored Lupercus, the god of shepherds, on February 13th, 14th, and 15th. On these days, men sacrificed goats and dogs, and whipped women to improve their fertility.

In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th to be a Christian feast day to honor St. Valentine. Hoping to prevent pagan rituals, he chose the date to coincide with Lupercalia, turning a pagan festival into a Christian holiday. As a result, St. Valentine was linked to love and fertility.

Two possible namesakes for Valentine’s Day are Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome. Both were persecuted by the Romans because of their Christianity and are said to have died on February 14th. Around 197 AD, Valentine of Terni was tortured and executed for being a Christian. Nearly a century later, Valentine of Rome was arrested and killed for giving aid to prisoners. According to legend, he converted his jailer to Christianity by giving the jailer’s blind daughter sight. Later stories describe how he fell in love with the daughter and sent her a note saying, “from your Valentine”, which began the tradition of sending valentines.

By the 17th century, the holiday was well-known, and by the mid-18th century, the passing of paper notes became popular — so popular that factories began mass-producing them. Then, it was in the 20th century that the holiday became commercialized. Chocolate, diamond, and card-making industries promoted Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to gift their products.

Today, people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day in many different ways. In Denmark, men give women a cut paper card with a funny poem, and it’s tradition for them to sign the card with a row of dots, each dot representing one letter in his name. If the woman can guess the name of the man, she receives an Easter egg at Easter. In South Korea, there are three days of celebration, each a month apart from the other: Valentine’s Day, when women give men sweets and flowers; White Day, when men give women a gift; and Black Day,  when single people eat black bean paste noodles called jajangmyeon. In recent years, a new holiday on February 14th called Singles Awareness Day has developed as an alternative to the traditional holiday.

For some, Valentine’s Day is overly commercialized, sappy, and pointless. For others, Valentine’s Day is fun and romantic. But as the many ways people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day demonstrates, the holiday remains as popular as ever.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All THE BLUE & GOLD Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *