Whatever Happened to the Original Meaning of Valentine’s Day?

A first-century martyr, a medieval poet, and 58 million pounds of chocolate…

How did the holiday that originally honored the sacrificial love of a martyr become the pinnacle of romantic love?

Who invented Valentine’s Day?

It all started with a raucous Roman fertility festival called Lupercalia.

Lupercalia—held in mid-February—celebrated Faunus (the Roman god of agriculture) and Romulus and Remus (Rome’s founders). In the fifth century, Pope Gelasius outlawed the festival and declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day.

People did not, at first, associate the new holiday with romantic love. In 1375, the medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer (who often took liberties with history) wrote a poem associating St. Valentine’s Day with the day birds (and humans) find their mates:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day

Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate

People took the poem literally and believed that birds began mating on February 14. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, Valentine’s Day is a $20 billion industry.

Every February, Americans spend $448 million on candy, send 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards, give 220 million roses, and eat almost 8 billion Sweetheart candies (that’s enough candy to stretch from Rome, Italy, to Valentine, Arizona, and back again… 20 times).

Who was St. Valentine, anyway?

The Catholic Church actually has about a dozen St. Valentines and a Pope Valentine.

The man most universally acknowledged as the St. Valentine of Valentine’s Day is St. Valentine of Rome.

Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldiers. So he outlawed marriage for young men.

St. Valentine of Rome continued performing marriage ceremonies secretly. The Emperor discovered him and had him put to death on February 14, probably around AD 270.

While other rumors surround this little-known saint—including a love note written to the jailer’s daughter—St. Valentine is generally known for his heroism and love.

You may not like the consumerism behind the Valentine’s Day of today. Or that the holiday teaches our children to idolize romantic love.

But you can be proactive and use this holiday to teach your children the importance of showing love to family and neighbors.

This year, instead of focusing on the aspects you don’t care for, try focusing on St. Valentine’s heroism as he protected marriage and encouraged families.

Traditions that help your family re-focus

“We Love to Be a Family Day”

From: Power of Moms blog

This tradition is a good way to show your kids that spending time together as a family is just as important as having a mommy-daddy date night.

For your “We Love to Be a Family Day,” keep these two guidelines in mind:

  1. Set aside a morning, afternoon, or entire day where the whole family can be together without distractions. Set the date a couple weeks in advance and protect it from interruptions.
  2. Pre-plan several activities that everyone can do together. Think about a logical order for the activities. If your kids are older, you may want to write clues for them to decipher throughout the day.

Within these two guidelines, get creative. Have fun!

Remember: the important thing is the time you spend together as a family, not the intricacy or expense of the day. Inexpensive activities—like riding bikes, going on a picnic, or making breakfast together—are often more meaningful and memorable to kids.

Choose “Secret Valentines”

Assign each of your children a “Secret Valentine” during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Encourage them to understand the value of showing love to their siblings.

Help them brainstorm meaningful gifts (like secretly completing their “Secret Valentine’s” chores) rather than giving store-bought gifts.

Valentine’s Scripture Countdown

From: Not Consumed blog

Take a few minutes each of the 5 days leading up to Valentine’s Day to teach your kids more about God’s love and to brainstorm ways your family can respond to His love.


  1. Choose five verses about God’s love. Print the verses (including the reference) on card stock or colored paper. Cut out each verse in the shape of a heart.
  2. Each morning when your kids wake up, have them search the house for that day’s heart.
  3. Once your kids find it, have them take turns looking up the verse in the Bible and reading it aloud.
  4. Talk together about what that kind of love means. You can even have them draw a picture of how that kind of love makes them feel, or of someone showing that kind of love. Brainstorm ways you can respond to God’s love as a family (saying kind words to your siblings, serving a neighbor, etc.).
  5. Memorize the verse together as a family.

Give away treats…

  • To bless those who are alone. Make treats as a family and then have your kids compile a list of neighbors or people at church who might be alone. Take your kids to deliver their homemade treats to those people. Have your children write special notes to accompany the treats.
  • To show your gratitude to those who serve. You can also deliver homemade treats and notes to local librarians, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, or pastors.

Plan a craft day dedicated to love and prayer

Make a “Love Jar”

Decorate a mason jar and ask your kids to fill it with messages of love. You and your husband can add messages, too.

If your kids need help, use prompts like:

  • Reasons why I love my mama
  • Things daddy does that make me smile
  • Why Sarah is a good sister

Read the Love Jar messages at dinner on Valentine’s Day or save them to read throughout the year.

Slow down…

It is stunningly easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life.

Let these crafts and traditions help you and your family slow down, spend time together, and remember how much you care for each other.

You can take this secular holiday and use it to teach your children good habits of expressing love for their family and the people in your community.

Check It Out!

Looking for that perfect dessert to make for your hubby this Valentine’s Day? The You Be Sweet cookbook has all those famous recipes that have been passed around at church potlucks and family get-togethers for years, and now you can have them at your fingertips to make at home. Check it out today!

Planning your own Founding Fathers Feast? Check out these two cookbooks that offer historic recipes and vivid photography, along with an illuminating glimpse into the lives of two of our first presidents: Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon and Dining at Monticello: In Good Taste and Abundance.

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