TBT – How People Used to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Nowadays, Valentine’s Day is seen as a purely commercial holiday. Many boyfriends and husbands find themselves running around on February 13, trying to decide if flowers and chocolates will do or if a trip to the jewelry store is in order. In fact, the celebration of Valentine’s Day can be traced all the way back to the High Middle Ages. The name of the holiday wasn’t chosen because of the cards we send loved ones, but, in fact, February 14 is the Feast Day of Saint Valentine. Although the day we commemorate Saint Valentine is the same each year, the ways in which we celebrate have changed overtime. On this Throwback Thursday, take a look at the ways couples used to rekindle their love on Valentine’s Day and perhaps add some retro touches to your celebration this year.

Why February 14?

If not for the Christian church, instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day in the middle of February, we could have been gathering together for the pagan festival called Lupercalia. A festival to promote fertility, a dog and a goat were sacrificed to support the cause. PETA was not in favor of this. After the ceremony, Roman women and crops were brushed with the goat skin, which was symbolic of fertility. Later in the day, all of the women placed their names into an urn. From that urn, single men would pick a name and spend a year with that woman. Was this the earliest form of swinging? Many times, this would lead to marriage.

The reason that the Christian church chose February 14 as the Feast Day of Saint Valentine was to take away from the pagan ritual of Lupercalia. I think both men and women would prefer modern day celebrations of Valentine’s Day over Lupercalia. Even a box of the cheapest chocolate is better than being smacked with goat pelts and no man I know would be thrilled with the idea of possibly marrying a girl whose name he picked from an urn.

The Original Greeting Card

Even though we can all admit the majority of Valentine’s Day cards printed today are a tad too mushy, going to the grocery store and picking out the cutest card is still easier than what guys had to do in the 1400s. The first Valentine “card” is thought to have been sent to Charles, Duke of Orleans’, wife. He wrote it in 1415 while trapped in the Tower of London during the Battle of Agincourt. Years after that, King Henry V hired a writer to pen his Valentine greeting to Catherine of Valois. If guys these days wrote their own cards, they would most likely be a lot less eloquent, but they’d make up for it with heart emojis.

Heart-Shaped Box Décor

Richard Cadbury was the genius who associated chocolate with Valentine’s Day. Cadbury had recently discovered a new recipe for making drinking chocolate that left an excess of cocoa butter. Not wanting to waste anything, Cadbury decided to use this extra cocoa butter to make “eating chocolate” .By this time, Valentine’s Day was already a popular holiday, so Cadbury began selling his chocolate in beautiful boxes. We can actually thank him for producing the first heart-shaped box. The designs on the boxes and the boxes themselves were so beautiful people actually kept them to store things or to simply decorate their house. Why not try making that store bought box of candy your own this year with some paints and glitter? Don’t forget that cupid!


What is your favorite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day?




Kirstin Wright
Kirstin Wright
Kirstin is an IT worker by day and a freelance writer by night. When not behind a computer screen, she can be found exploring one of central Florida's famous theme parks or embarking on a new adventure. You can read about her adventures at Fun Orlando Ideas!