History of Valentine's Day – Historic Prints
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed: Free Returns
Free Standard Shipping
Get 10% OFF your First Order

Shop Now and Get Free Shipping to Anywhere in the United States and Puerto Rico.*

Follow us

History of Valentine's Day


When you hear Happy Valentine's Day this 2023, you may become curious about the history and origin of this most romantic holiday. Valentine's Day has been part of Western history since the sixteenth century though its origins date back to Christian Martyr Saint Valentine. So, how did Valentine's Day start to become one of the most popular holidays in modern times?

Immigrants to the United States brought their traditions with them since the earliest days of the original colonies, and these began to spread across cultures as America became the melting pot that it is today. Because it falls on a specific date, what day is Valentine's Day is commonly asked leading up to February.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Valentine's Day, this special day remains an important milestone for many couples, young and old, and a time to remember and appreciate your partner and express your love and how grateful you are for having your partner in your life.

According to the earliest reference Saint Valentine restored sight to the daughter of his blind jailer. Valentine had been imprisoned for ministering to early Christians in the Roman Empire who were persecuted under Roman Law. As Western Europe evolved, Valentine's Day was often celebrated as a large feast where participants would gather to share communal meals and featured wine and revelry.

The History of Cupid

The iconic image of Baby Cupid with his signature bow and arrow traditionally signifies his power. Cupid dates back to classical mythology, when he was depicted as the God of Desire. In the modern era, he is often depicted as an impish character who sparks romantic interest between couples.

There are depictions of Cupid dating back to ancient roman statues, and he became a prominent feature of Valentine's Day cards during the eighteenth century. Cupid's wings are meant to symbolize that love can be fleeting, and emotions can be uncertain if clouded by romantic feelings.

While the image of Cupid evolved over the centuries, modern images of him depict a chubby, rosy-cheeked baby that strikes lovers with his arrow of love.

The Traditional Relationship to Romance

The classic relationship of Valentine's Day to romance dates back to Roman mythology when Cupid was often attributed at the beginning of romantic myths for setting the protagonist's romantic journey in motion. These myths were passed down and incorporated into cultural traditions across Europe and eventually spread to North America as settlements began to expand across the continent.

Valentine's Day's association with romantic love makes it unique when compared to other classical celebrations, which were typically introduced to celebrate harvests or other religious developments.

Celebrating Valentine's Day is often considered one of the most memorable moments of the year. Couples often plan and prepare their evening for months in advance, with restaurants getting booked up well before February 14.

Valentine's Day and its Development Across the Globe

When is Valentine's Day celebrated in the west? Typically couples celebrate the holiday on February 14. However, in recent years, some couples have chosen to celebrate on dates before the official holiday to avoid crowded restaurants and long wait times.

As couples celebrate Valentine's Day, the holiday has transformed over centuries, and today many people choose alternative ways to express their feelings, like camping trips, taking a cooking course together, or having an experience that is outside of their everyday routine.

Valentine's Day celebrations in Latin America feature traditional celebrations of expressing romantic love between couples. However, many couples also perform acts of appreciation for friends and family to display gratitude for every special person in their life.

Japan was introduced to Valentine's Day in 1936. Due to a translation error, a tradition was established of only women offering gifts of chocolate to men instead of the more traditional exchange of gifts to women from men found in most countries.

In Ireland, those looking to find love make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Valentine in Dublin. The Shrine is said to hold relics of the original St. Valentine of Rome, and adherents pray for romantic love and write down their prayers for love in a dedicated book.

Modern Traditions and Celebrations

From gourmet chocolates in a heart-shaped box to romantic dinners or even vacations, modern-day Valentine's day celebrations are among the most celebrated traditions for couples, friends, and family. Exchanging cards is a fun pastime that is often practiced in school, which encourages social skills and communication among children.

Another popular tradition for married or dating couples on Valentine's Day is the gift of thoughtful jewelry to express romantic feelings and gratitude for loving companionship. In the United States, going out for a meal and some time together is a time-honored tradition that gained popularity with the rise of fine dining establishments in the tradition of classic culinary traditions based in Western Europe.

Flowers are another thoughtful gift that women are often the recipient of on Valentine's Day, which is a tradition that dates back to eighteenth-century England and was incorporated in the United States following British colonization.

People commonly wonder who invented Valentine's Day. However, there is no singular individual responsible for the romantic holiday; instead, it was a cultural development that is the result of numerous folk and religious traditions dating back to Roman antiquity.

Valentine's Day Cards

Handmade cards began to rise in popularity in the eighteenth century, and what is considered the first mass-produced Valentine's Day card was printed in 1797. The Young Man's Valentine Writer was produced to help English men with creative verses to present. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, paper Valentine's Day cards were manufactured in factories, and some featured real lace and ornate ribbons.

In 1840 the invention of the postage stamp allowed Valentine's Day cards to be sent anonymously, and the tradition of having a secret admirer express their love interest became a tradition that endures to this Day.

In the United States, the first Valentine's Day cards were produced by Esther Howland, with decorations imported from England in 1847. In 2001 the Greeting Card Association commemorated this with the annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary."

This is perhaps the most iconic part of the Valentine's Day tradition, and it is estimated that 190 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually in the United States alone. Many children also have in-school Valentine's Day card exchanges, pushing the number to nearly one billion, with teachers being the most common recipients.

While manufactured Valentine's Day cards can be quite ornate and feature poems and other romantic messages, many people still believe there is something uniquely lovely about a handmade Valentine's Day card. Making a Valentine's Day card can also be a fun activity that everyone can enjoy, regardless of age. Writing down a heartfelt message and offering it to your sweetheart is one of the most anticipated moments of Valentine's Day and can be the start of a romance that lasts a lifetime.

Valentine's Day cards are also cherished keepsakes that are daily reminders of your partner's love and appreciation. Some couples also exchange gifts in addition to Valentine's Day cards which signify their romantic love and devotion to each other.

Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls and Valentine's Day Poetry

Many of the common phrases and lines about Valentine's Day can be attributed to Chaucer and his Parliament of Fowls, which was published in 1382. It draws a link to Valentine's Day and romantic love and was written for the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia, featuring the following lines:

"For this was on Saint Valentine's Day

When every bird comes there to choose his match

Of every kind that men may think of

That earth and air and tree and every lake

And that so huge a noise they began to make

Was so full, that not easily was there space

For me to stand—so full was all the place."

Critics believe Chaucer was referring to the date of February 14, which during his time was considered the start of Spring and the time of new life awakening following the cold of Winter. These remain among the most traditional Valentine's Day quotes.

Another of the most popular ways to start a Valentine's greeting is with the classic two lines:

Roses are red

Violets are blue...

These lines are followed by personalized rhymes that express fondness or can be humorous in nature to bring delight to the recipient. Valentine's poetry remains a popular Western tradition that dates back to antiquity.

Final Remarks

Checkout our featured products for the month of February and don't miss out on new inventory, special promotions, and exciting updates from Historic Prints.

1850 Italy Map Poster

Image Source: Historic Prints - 1850 Italy Map Poster

1878 Nouveau Paris Monumental Map

Image Source: Historic Prints - Nouveau Paris Monumental Map

So from the team at Historic Prints,

Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

At Historic Prints

We Appreciate You!

Join the Historic Prints newsletter to stay up to date on new promotions, news, updates, and more!



*Free shipping for framed and canvas products limited to the 48 contiguous United States.