The origins and history of Valentine’s Day

Here at, we’re taking lots of bookings for romantic holiday cottages for Valentine’s Day. It’s a busy time for us, but we wanted to take a minute to think about the origins of this day. Where did it come from? Why do we celebrate it?

As far as we know, celebrations began in Roman times. The festival of Lupercalia was held in February on the 13th, 14th and 15th. This was a fertility festival, held to usher in the spring and healthy crops. Men would run around naked using dog or goat-skin whips to spank women to promote their fertility too.

Valentine was Bishop of Interamna who served in AD 197 under the Roman Emperor Aurelian. He was beheaded for reasons unknown. Another Christian Valentine, Valentine of Rome was also martyred for giving aid to prisoners during the reign of Emperor Claudius. He was said to have fallen in love with his jailer’s daughter and wrote to her signing off “From your Valentine.”

Then, around 496 AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day. The day was to be a Christian feast day, ostensibly designed to “civilise” the still popular festival of Lupercalia.

The first mentions of Valentine’s Day and love, apart from the alleged love letters from Valentine, were from Geoffrey Chaucer. He wrote in his book “Parlement of Foules” in 1382 about the engagement of Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. “For this was on St. Valentine's Day/ When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”

Later, in France around 1400 AD, the High Court of Love was formed to manage affairs of the heart such as marriage, divorces and all manner of happenings. It was held on Valentine’s Day each year. Sometime later, the Duke of Orleans writes the first recorded Valentine’s love letter to his love when he was a prisoner in the Tower of London.

By now, Valentine’s Day is a firm fixture in the calendar, so much so that Shakespeare writes about it in Hamlet. “To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,/All in the morning betime,/And I a maid at your window,/To be your Valentine.”

From then on, Valentine’s Day was a regular part of our year. The print press, the advent of the card, various publications of romantic rhyme writing and the Post Office all made sending cards and love notes easier. The rest as they say, is history.

So when you’re relaxing in your romantic holiday cottage on Valentine’s Day, just think. The holiday you’re celebrating is over 2000 years old!

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