The Mysterious Origins of Valentine’s Day


Caroline Courtney '22, Writer

      The origins of Valentine’s Day are relatively unclear. While it is known that the holiday is titled after a saint, there are actually three possible Saint Valentines. The story most associated with the holiday is that St. Valentine was a priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Emperor Claudius II believed that young men were worse as soldiers when they were committed to wives and families. As a result, he banned all engagements and marriages throughout Rome. St. Valentine then resisted by performing marriages for couples in secret. When he was caught, St. Valentine was brutally murdered on February 14th.

     This harsh origin story is far from the Valentine’s Day we celebrate today. A few traditions remain from the origins of the holiday but many evolved over time into what we recognize today. Hand-made cards were common in the Middle Ages but slowly became industrialized as the technology to mass-produce cards became more available and postage rates decreased. The first conversation hearts were originally meant to be medicinal candies but the machine was instead transitioned to make more popular candies, including NECCO wafers. These circular candies first were printed with valentines messages and later transitioned to the heart-shaped candies we know today. 

     Despite its bloody origins, the romantic aspects of Valentine’s day, such as cards and gifts, have remained the prevalent image we associate with Valentine’s Day.