The Gritty History of Valentine’s Day

Vanessa Lingenfelter (2021-2022), Co-Managing Editor

Feb. 14 as we know it today is a celebration of love, in which couples, friends and families exchange gifts and candies to show their affection for the special people in their lives. However, the true origins of Valentine’s Day are a lot darker and more complex than expected.
Although it is commonly believed that Valentine’s Day traces its roots back to a single man named St. Valentine, there actually were multiple St. Valentines. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, an order of Buddhist monks later called the Bollandists collected ancient records of
various saints over the course of three centuries. These sources, eventually published from 1643 all the way through 1940, reveal more to the story.
The ancient records show that several St. Valentines had died on what we now know as Valentine’s Day, three of them dying as early as the third century. The first known St. Valentine supposedly died in Africa, although little is known besides his name and death. The other two, which are the true origins to many Christian legends that set the foundation for Valentine’s Day, were executed during the rule of the Ancient Roman Emperor, Claudius Gothicus. By the time
the medieval age came about, these saints were viewed as martyrs.
Although the execution was anything but romantic, medieval legends evolved until they painted the picture of a martyr who helped Christian lovers communicate during a time when Christians were commonly persecuted. According to Britannica, another widespread medieval legend
suggests that St. Valentine helped perform Christian marriage rituals in secret. As a result of these stories being repeated over time, Valentine’s Day slowly became associated with the
celebrations of love that we know it for today. In spite of its gory origins, Valentine’s Day has nonetheless evolved into an opportunity to show love to those you are grateful for in your life, whether it be romantic or platonic. The holiday is far removed from its history, but still reflects an age-old tradition worth appreciating.