Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Valentine's Day
from Cultural Studies: Holidays Around the World

St. Valentine is believed to have been a Roman priest who was martyred on this day around 270. How he became the patron saint of lovers remains a mystery, but one theory is that the Church used the day of St. Valentine's martyrdom in an attempt to Christianize the old Roman LUPERCALIA, a pagan festival held around the middle of February. Part of the ancient ceremony entailed putting girls' names in a box and letting the boys draw them out. Couples would thus be paired off until the following year. The Church substituted saints' names for girls' names, in the hope that the participant would model his life after the saint whose name he drew. But by the 16th century, it was once again girls' names that ended up in the box. Eventually the custom of sending anonymous cards or messages to those one admired became the accepted way of celebrating St. Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day has been the occasion for such events as underwater weddings and “kiss-ins” and “hug-ins”—in 1999, about 3,000 couples in Belarus attempted to set a new world record for the largest kiss-in (previously held by 1, 600 couples in Spain); in 2002 more than 1, 000 students and teachers at a South African high school went for the world's biggest hug-in.

© 2018 Omnigraphics, Inc.

Related Articles

Full text Article Steel, Danielle (Fernande Schüelein-Steel) 1950 -
The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English

Prolific and internationally best-selling American author whose many publications, including novels, children's books and a volume...

Full text Article Saint Valentine's Day
Collins English Dictionary

n usually abbreviated to: St Valentine's Day 1 Feb 14, the day on which valentines are exchanged, originally connected with the pagan festival of L

See more from Credo