Valentine’s Day is a day of love and romance, but the holiday’s origins are more surprising than you might think.
From ancient pagan rituals to the Catholic Church, Valentine’s Day has a long and complicated history.
Here’s a look at the surprising origins of some of the holiday’s most popular traditions.
The first recorded Valentine’s Day celebration dates back to 496 AD, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 a day of love. The holiday was originally intended to honor Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who was martyred for defying the Roman Emperor Claudius II’s orders to stop young men from marrying.
The holiday was also associated with the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia. The festival was celebrated on February 15 and included a sacrifice of goats and dogs, followed by a feast. Young men would draw the names of young women from a jar and pair off for the festival.
The tradition of exchanging love letters and cards on Valentine’s Day began in the Middle Ages, when it was believed that birds began to mate on February 14. People would write love poems and send them to their beloveds on this day.
The tradition of giving flowers as a symbol of love is also believed to have originated in the Middle Ages. People would give flowers as a token of their affection and as a way to woo their beloveds.
The modern day tradition of giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day began in the 19th century. Chocolates were a popular gift for the holiday because they were seen as a symbol of love and romance.
Valentine’s Day has a long and complicated history, but it’s still a day of love and romance. Whether you’re exchanging love letters, giving flowers, or indulging in chocolates, take a moment to appreciate the surprising origins of some of the holiday’s most popular traditions.