A Brief History Of Valentine's Day

January 23, 2018

A Brief History Of Valentine's Day

The 14th February is fast approaching, and with it we see the stores filling up with flowers and chocolate boxes, shop windows displaying thousands of love cards and every glossy magazine is suddenly dedicated to helping you find the “Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift”. Special plans for this particular day, whether it be spending a romantic evening with our other half or celebrating SAD (Singles Awareness Day) and eating a self-bought chocolate bar... or two.

In any case two questions remain, how exactly did we get here and who the heck is this Saint Valentine anyway? 

From pagan heritage, to Christian tradition, to today’s celebration, here at Camden Watch Co. we decided to look into the mysterious and not always quite so romantic history of the Valentine’s Day we know today.

I. Lupercalia, The Pagan Festival of Fertility


In Ancient Rome, people would celebrate the feast of Lupercalia, a festival of fertility dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. During 3 days, from February 13th to 15th, several obscure and quite brutal rituals took place.

First of all, a group of drunken and naked priests would sacrifice a goat and a dog as symbols for fertility and purification. They would strip off the animal's skin and dip it into the blood in order to beat young women with it. As awful as it may sound, the young women were actually queuing up in the hope that this bloody ritual would make them fertile.

Another aspect, similar to but more primitive then today’s dating apps, was for women from cities to put their names in an urn waiting for a bachelor to pick it out, resulting in the two people being coupled for the rest of the year. This would often lead to either marriage or terrible consequences for the womem. Talk about a matchmaking Russian roulette! 

 II.The Rise Of Christianity And The Legend of Saint Valentine


Around the end of the 5th Century, when Christianity had risen up with Pope Gelasius the not-so-Christian fertility festival was officially replaced by the celebration of Saint Valentine on the 14th February.

Who Saint Valentine really was is still a mystery, as the Catholic Church recognises eight different Saints named the same. However, it is told that every one of them died martyrs on the 14th February. 

One of the legends says that Valentine was a young priest who would perform secret marriages during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, in 3rd century Rome. At that time, young men wouldn’t be allowed to get married, as their were considered to be better soldiers without any family. When his defiance of Claudius was discovered, Valentine was executed on the 14th February in the name of love. 

 III. The Victorian Era And The Way we Celebrate Valentine’s Day Today


Before the mid 1800’s, Valentine’s Day was made popular in Europe by famous Romantics such as Shakespeare and Chaucer. People would give handwritten notes to family and friends as a gesture of affection.

However, it is during the Victorian era and thanks to the industrial revolution and the birth of the penny post (more details here in our Christmas post), that Valentine’s Day cards were mass produced and sent out. 

This tradition became even bigger in America, when 'The Mother of the Valentine' Esther A.Howland began selling the fist cards there.

This is still a tradition going strong as today's Valentine’s Day sales are around $18.6 billion each year worldwide.

Looking for a timeless gift for the lady of your heart? What about one of these lovely little No.24 watches :


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