Is Valentine's Day A Holiday?

Updated September 6, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

February 14 is more commonly known as Valentine’s Day. Valentine's day is famous around the world for being a day of celebrating love. Couples exchange cards, candy, chocolate, and flowers, and often go on special date nights to celebrate the day. Every country has its own traditions that they observe each year. So, can Valentine’s be a holiday? It may depend on who you ask and how you define it. As you explore the history of Valentine’s Day, you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether or not it deserves this label as well as how you’d like to celebrate it if you choose to.

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Early Origins Of Valentine’s Day

The very first time Valentine’s Day was celebrated was in the year 496 by the ancient Roman civilization. Although February 14 is now seen as a day of love, its origins may actually be much more sinister. There are multiple accounts of the origins of Valentine’s Day, and no one story is accepted as total fact. Still, many can agree upon some basic details of how this holiday came to be.

Saint Valentine The Martyr 

According to some accounts, Valentine's day is a day that all started out as a feast in honor of one (or possibly two) Christian martyrs known as Saint Valentine. Saint Valentine was murdered by the ancient Romans and buried around A.D. 270, although the details surrounding his murder are up for debate. It is said that there was another man named Saint Valentine, from Italy, who was also killed as a martyr. This is during the time when Christians were highly persecuted by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. Again, no one can say for sure how this man was slain or why, although some speculate that he was helping Christians avoid persecution. As a result of these events and tales, the Catholic Church began to honor Saint Valentine by celebrating a day of what’s known today as Valentine’s Day.

Lupercalia, a Pagan Festival 

Others claim that Valentine's day is a day that started from an alleged feast that occurred in the middle of February in order to “Christianize” Lupercalia, which is a traditional pagan celebration held from the 13th to the 15th of February. On these days, Roman men would sacrifice both a goat and a dog to the Pagan gods and then whip the Roman women with the hides of those animals. It is said that these women thought that being hit with the blood-covered hides on these days would make them more fertile. Men also draw out the name of a woman and would is paired with them for the remainder of the celebration, or is sometimes paired beyond the celebration days to through the end of the year. Under Roman law, women were obliged to accept, and the couples often ended up getting married to one another, though some separated once the celebration days ended.

Turn Of Events

Some historians allege that during the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I united St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia in an effort to get rid of any pagan rituals or festivals. From then on, February 14 was solely known as Valentine’s Day. In many ways, it was the Catholic Church that was responsible for making February 14 an important day.

The Middle Ages

That being said, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that Valentine’s Day began to solely be associated with romantic love rather than both romantic and platonic love alike. Poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem called Parliament of Fowls in which he describes a group of birds who choose their ideal mates and discuss the nature of love. He even praises Saint Valentine in the poem. It could be that his poem is part of the reason everyone began to view February 14 as a day for lovers rather than a day about love in general. It was historically the very first known piece of work to propose this idea.


During this period, it was also a tradition for young men and women to draw names from a bowl. The person who they drew from the bowl was their Valentine that year. The boys and girls would pin the name of their Valentine on their sleeve for all to see for the entire week. If you’ve ever heard the saying “wearing your heart on your sleeve,” this is where that expression came from.

Popularity Grows

During the 17th century, Shakespeare popularized Valentine’s Day when he wrote it into his play Hamlet. In the play, Ophelia laments about being Hamlet’s lover and valentine. Shakespeare’s play emphasized the idea that February 14 was a day for romantic love and not just friendship, just as Chaucer had put forward.

In the late 1700s, women would gift a pair of gloves to their love interest along with a Valentine’s Day message. They also included a short rhyme or poem. If their object of affection returned the favor and gave them a gift back, the two were considered to be sweethearts.

Eventually, during the Victorian era, love notes became very popular. This is when this event began to really take on its most modern meaning. People began exchanging flowers, chocolates, sweets, and other gifts, just as they often do today.

The First Commercial Valentines

In the year 1849, Valentine’s Day was still gaining momentum in the United States. The invention of the very first Valentine’s Day cards was by a 20-year-old woman named Esther Howland. Howland’s father owned a stationery shop in England that also sold fancy, lace-covered valentines. This sparked an idea and Howland decided she would produce similar items in the United States. The New England Valentine Co. was created, and the first cards were sold for 75 cents each.

Is Valentine’s A Holiday?

After digging through and understanding the history behind February 14, you may still be left wondering whether or not Valentine’s Day is an actual holiday. It’s safe to conclude that it is a holiday, but a holiday that isn’t celebrated by everyone. This holiday also has a different meaning depending on who you ask or where you are. 

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This Day Around The World

There is not a single country in the world that recognizes Valentine’s Day as a national holiday. However, it is an official day for feasting in both the Anglican and Lutheran Church. Valentine’s Day, while not a national holiday, is celebrated all around the world, despite not being an official holiday anywhere, but certain countries make it a bigger deal than others.

Get Help With Regain

Are you and your significant other going through a rough patch in your relationship? Are you in need of help with problems that feel too large to solve on your own? Maybe Valentine’s Day is coming up and you don’t know where you and your partner stand. If you’re facing any of these issues, Regain can help. Regain is an online therapy platform for couples, or any individual, experiencing some type of relationship or personal problem. Whether you are wanting to speak with a counselor alone or receive couples therapy alongside your partner, assistance is available. 

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