Teaching Students About the Origin Of Valentine’s Day
There’s something magical about the month of February as it brings along the scent of blooming love and warmth with Valentine’s Day. However, while most students are aware of this special day, very few know about its origins.
The history of Valentine’s Day—and the story of its patron saint—is coated in mystery. Saint Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions.
The ancient Romans may be responsible for why we celebrate Valentine’s Day in mid-February. The celebration was called Lupercalia, which was observed in mid-February and marked a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. As part of the folklore, young men would draw the names of women from a box, and they would be paired throughout the festival—sometimes leading to marriages.
However, Saint Valentine’s tale is where the romantic aspect comes into play. At least three different Saint Valentines are recognized by the Catholic Church, all martyred. One story suggests that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome when Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men. Claudius believed single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families; Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius by continuing to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Once his actions were discovered, Claudius ordered Valentine to be put to death.
Another popular theory about St. Valentine was that he was imprisoned for helping Christians escape Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, during his imprisonment, Valentine sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself after falling in love with a young girl who visited him during his confinement.
Later on, at the end of the 5th Century AD, Pope Gelasius I established St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th as an attempt to ‘Christianize’ Lupercalia.
Until today, people worldwide continue to honor St. Valentine through expressions of love on Feb 14th—an effort that educators can utilize to teach their students about history not only as a series of events but also how it shapes societal customs and traditions.
Teaching children about cultural nuances like Valentine’s day helps expand their worldview while reinforcing historical knowledge in a fun new way.