When Was Valentine's Day First Celebrated?

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The exact origins of Valentine's Day are difficult to determine, but there are indications that the holiday may have roots in both Roman and Norman tradition dating back to ancient Roman history and about 300 C.E. Between February 13 and 15 in ancient Rome, a holiday known as Lupercalia was celebrated. This was a rather brutal and violent festival during which men would slaughter animals, consume them and then use the animals' hides to whip women as part of a fertility ritual. The festival also included a matchmaking process in which men and women would be paired up based on a random lottery.

The Norman holiday known as Galatin's Day was celebrated around the same time in the calendar year, and this holiday's similarity to the word 'Valentine' may also provide clues as to the modern holiday's origins. Additionally, the word 'Galatin' means 'lover of women,' which points to the more romantic side of the modern Valentine's Day.

Famous British authors such as Chaucer and Shakespeare may have been at least partially responsible for the holiday's evolution into something sweet and romantic in spite of its dark Saturnalian origins. However, the modern Valentine's Day is likely the responsibility of Hallmark, which started mass-producing cards for the holiday in 1913.