Carlow Culture

The Origins of Valentine’s Day  

Written by Kaitlyn Stamm

(Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images)

The month of February celebrates many concepts, one of which being love. The love we have for a significant other, our family, and our friends. But why do we celebrate this day in February and how did it come about? 

The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named Valentine or similarly, Valentinus. One story says Saint Valentine was a priest in Rome. During this time, the Roman Emperor had outlawed marriage under the belief that single men made the best soldiers. However, Saint Valentine defied this law and would conduct marriage ceremonies for couples in secret. When these events were discovered by the emperor, Saint Valentine was sentenced to death.  

Another story suggests Saint Valentine was executed for assisting prisoners in their escape from harsh Roman prisons. However, Saint Valentine fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and is rumored to have written letters to her signed “From your Valentine”.  

These two stories paint very similar images of Saint Valentine being an admirable and heroic figure, but most importantly a romantic and advocate of love.  

It is said that there would be a feast to commemorate his execution in February every year. Others say there was a fertility feast named Lupercalia that occurred every February to celebrate the Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture. During these festivals, they would hold events such as animal sacrifices to the god and matching events to pair couples together. This specific festival is rumored to be held until the 5th century, when it was deemed as “un-Christian”. 

Pope Gelasius promptly declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day once it was outlawed. Since this event, many have followed further implicating the holiday to be one of love and romance, which brings us too today. Valentine’s Day is a day to be celebrated with all those in our lives whom we love and appreciate, be sure to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you this February 14th.  

Learn more about the origin story behind Cupid.


More about the image pictured: Saint Valentine (approx. 176 – Rome, 14 Feb. 273) Bishop of Terni and Martyr. According to tradition, he died by beheading under Aurelian, at 97, after torture. He was imprisoned for having joined in marriage the young Serapio, christian and the roman legionary Sabino, pagan, who had urgently requested baptism in order to join the love, seriously ill; the two dead together immediately after the celebration. For this episode, the saint is venerated as the patron saint of in lovers, but so also of epileptics. According to some sources it would actually two distinct historical characters, a bishop of Terni, and the other Roman presbyter (that would miraculously healed from blindness through prayer, as a prisoner, the daughter of a jailer, whose he was in love), both executed by decapitation on the via Flaminia. Colored engraving, Italy 1886 Commemoration February 14th. Colored engraving from Diodore Rahoult, Italy 1886 (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images).

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