The Origins of St Valentine's Day

Have you ever wondered where Valentine's Day originated from?  As February begins each year, its the question on a lot of people's minds, so we did some digging around for you!  There are varying myths in circulation but there is a common thread among them all.

Valentine's Day is an old tradition thought to have originated from a Roman Festival known as Lupercalia, according to  It was held on February 15th as a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture.  During the celebration's boys would draw names of girls from a box and the pair would be partners during the festival.  These matches often led to marriage.  The festival survived the initial rise of Christianity but was outlawed at the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St Valentine's Day.


Who was St Valentine?

St Valentine that inspired the holiday may have been more than one man.  The saint officially recognised by the Roman Catholic Church was a real person who died around 270AD.  An account from the 1400's describes Valentine as a priest who was beheaded by Emperor Claudius the 2nd for helping Christian couples wed.  The emperor had banned marriage as he thought single men made better soldiers.  Valentine felt this was unfair so he celebrated marriages in secret.  When the emperor found out he was thrown in jail and sentenced to death.  He may also have been Bishop o Terri, also martyred by Claudius the 2nd on the outskirts of Rome.

There are similarities between the priest's and bishop's stories, which leads people to believe they are the same man.  There is so much confusion around St Valentine that the church stopped veneration of him in 1969 - though he is still listed as an official saint.

'Valentinus' is from the Latin word for worthy, strong or powerful and was a popular name between the second and eight centuries AD meaning there are several martyrs with the same name.

There are actually a dozen Valentines listed and there is even a Pope Valentine.  The actual day we celebrate is known as St Valentine of Rome to set him apart.  Valentine did help marry couples in secret which is undeniably very romantic.  Some believe that we celebrate St Valentine's Day on the 14th of February to mark the anniversary of St Valentine's death which was thought to have occurred in the middle of February around 270AD.

It wasn't until the 18th Century that Valentine's Day took off throughout the world.  In 1913 Hallmark Cards in Kansas City in America began mass producing specific Valentine's Day cards.  Now about a billion cards are sold every year and it is the second biggest card sending time of the whole year. 

Along with sending cards, gifts such as jewellery, chocolates and flowers have all become synonymous with Valentine's Day.  With a vast selection of jewellery to suit all tastes and budgets, why not get your loved one something special from Ór Jewellery this Valentine's Day!  Shop online on or in store - 42 William Street, Galway City