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Valentine’s Day: Where did it come from?

Roses. Romantic dates. Everything pink. Chocolate and red wine. These are what we think about when someone mentions “Valentine’s Day”. But why do we celebrate February 14th as the day of love? It’s time for a history lesson. 

Let’s go back to a time when the pressures of this holiday didn’t exist: around 270 CE, during the Roman Empire. Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, Romans were forbidden to marry. The empire needed soldiers and didn’t want them to have the distraction of wives or families. 

But love always finds a way. Couples would secretly go to a bishop named Valentine who agreed to illegally perform marriages. However, it wasn’t long before Claudius heard about this and brought Valentine before him. He thought he could stop Valentine from marrying people by converting him to Roman paganism since Valentine was Christian. Stupidly, Valentine tried to pull an Uno reverse and convert Claudius. This, of course, backfired and Claudius had Valentine imprisoned and eventually killed. 

Valentine was executed on February 14th and many years later was granted sainthood by the Catholic Church. Since February 14th is also the eve of the Feast of Lupercalia, the pagan festival of love, the Church thought it made sense to transform that day into a holiday for lovers and name it after the biggest sucker for love, Saint Valentine. 

Side note: while in prison, Valentine was rumored to have fallen in love with no other than the jailer’s daughter! Before he died, he left a note for her signed “Your Valentine”, which is where the phrase comes from. 

So the next time someone complains about Valentine’s Day, you can tell them that it is actually a day dedicated to a man who paid the ultimate price for love. 

Anna Rodgers

Northeastern '24

Hi! I'm a mechanical engineering major and an ASL minor at Northeastern! In my free time, I enjoy baking and cooking traditional Korean dishes to get in touch with my heritage. I'm a plant mom and love fashion, skincare, and matcha lattes.
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