What's the history of Valentine's Day, and who was St. Valentine?

In today's context, Valentine’s Day means candles, hearts, and romantic dinners. But some people might wonder: when did Valentine’s Day start, and when did it become a celebration of love?

It turns out, the answer is tricky. To be honest, no one really knows for sure.

Some historians date Valentine’s Day all the way back to the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Back then it was more about people drinking too much and pairing off than it was about love. That’s until Pope Gelasius I made Lupercalia a Christian holiday and he made everyone put some pants on for it too.

That might be the origin of a festival of romance, but where does St. Valentine fit in? For that matter, who was St. Valentine? One answer says the 14th-century writer Geoffrey Chaucer wanted to create his own festival of love that took place in the early spring, and St. Valentine was recorded to have died on February 14th, so he got the honor--despite not being particularly known for romance.

So what was he known for? Not much, actually. In fact, he might be a composite of two different saints. Both were most likely martyrs, killed for their beliefs. Beyond that, we know that one might have liked pickles, and the other maybe had a dog. It’s not exactly a robust biography. 

No matter what the real story is behind Valentine’s Day, one thing is for sure: it’s probably too late for you to get a dinner reservation.