Photo by Cade Schmidt

Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, and with all the commercials, advertisements and flowers, it is easy to wonder how and why it became a celebrated holiday.

Diane Johnson, associate professor of classical studies, said the origins of Valentine’s Day go back to the 3rd century A.D.
During the reformation, many wanted verify the accuracy of the Saints, which are holy individuals and religious heroes. Pope Gregory V convinced the churches that instead of getting rid of Saint’s day, the church should reevaluate and fix the martyrology, the schedule of Saints, Johnson said.

Essentially, the churches went through each Saint and decided whether they got to keep their Sainthood based on evidence from stories and folk talks.

“A lot of saints got thrown out; people who we think are important, but don’t have a lot of evidence for,” Johnson said. “For some reason they kept Saint Valentine even though there wasn’t much evidence.”

While there was more than one Saint Valentine, Johnson said there are folk tales of a Saint Valentine who was martyred, or killed, on Feb. 14 by Emperor Claudius, who murdered numerous Christians at the time. This particular Saint Valentine was very active in marrying couples in the church, so Christians associated him with being the saint for Christian marriage, Johnson said.

“He is the one known for looking over appropriate marriage, that’s about all we know,” Johnson said.

Although the origin of Valentine’s Day started many centuries ago, the way it has been celebrated has evolved over time. The holiday has been celebrated as a day for love, remembrance and eroticism, Johnson said.

The day was originally used to celebrate Saint Valentine and then evolved into a celebration of eroticism and intimacy, but currently Valentine’s Day has become a day to express love and appreciation, Johnson said. 

“The modern Valentine’s day you give valentines to your teachers,” Johnson said. “I mean is that erotic?”

Even with the various meanings and messages associated with Valentine’s Day, Johnson said she has no problem with the holiday as long as couple’s don’t go overboard.

“I think to the extent that Valentine’s Day has become for just roses and chocolate is great,” Johnson said. “A day for roses and chocolate is fine by me.”