top of page
  • Writer's pictureNicole Salter

Is Valentine's Day a Made Up Holiday?

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

If you have already gotten into some debates with friends, family members and coworkers about whether Valentine's Day is nothing more than a capitalist ploy to sell gifts to couples and schoolchildren, you may be wondering: Is Valentine's Day really just a made up holiday? Read on to discover the origins of Valentine's Day (source: Encyclopedia Britannica) so you can set the record straight!

Valentine's Day: Thank the Romans

Like so many other holidays celebrated in the West, we can thank the Roman Empire for Valentine's Day. Those Romans really loved their festivals, and every February they used to have one called Lupercalia, which heralded the start of Spring (yes Rome is apparently a lot hotter than Toronto, where Spring starts in May these days).

Unlike your typical Spring Fling/Mayday festival where young maidens decorated their hair with flowers and innocently danced around a pole, Lupercalia involved animal sacrifices, fertility rites, orgies, and pairing up random couples using a lottery system. Wow. This is the kind of debauchery that likely helped lead to the fall of Rome, but it was probably considered a lot of fun at the time. Kind of like Tindr.

People in costume dancing around a Maypole
Innocent pole dancing

From Lupercalia to Valentine's Day

So how did February 14th come to be a day for lovers as opposed to random pairings? Around the 1300s, there were a few different Christian martyred saints by the name of Valentine, so here's where history gets a bit foggy. Was the holiday named in honour of an imprisoned priest who signed one of his letters "from your Valentine", or was it the Valentine who secretly married couples to spare the men from going to war, or some other Saint Valentine impressive enough to get a day named after him? The answers are lost to history. But you can bet that people eventually figured out how to make money out of this day for lovers.

Valentine's Day Goes Commercial

People had already been sending each other formal Valentines for centuries by the time the first commercially printed ones appeared in the United States in the mid-1800s. Cupid, flowers, birds and, of course, hearts, often appeared on these cards. Candy and flowers (especially beautiful red roses) became traditional gifts, but now you will find a lot of people giving one another jewelry, perfumes, engagement rings, and just about any other expression of love. You'll have to go to the Philippines to experience the mass weddings that happen on February 14th - paid for by the government, no less!

Find a Gift for your Valentine, Toronto

This year, pamper your love with beautiful bath and body care products! Orders received five working days before the big day are guaranteed to be delivered within the GTA by or before the 14th. You can order online, fill out your naughty-or-nice gift message for the card, and check out securely with credit card or PayPal.

The Takeaway

Lots of holidays are 'made up' in the sense that someone in power decreed such-and-such a day as a holiday, feast day or celebration. Look at Family Day - that's a new one you don't see anyone complaining about :) Every day should be an expression of love, but sometimes we need little reminders, and a special, designated day doesn't hurt - but that doesn't mean anyone should feel bad for not joining in the hype. Whether you are allergic to chocolate, against the importation of greenhouse roses from impoverished countries, or soured on love (check out #mistakeweek on Instagram @saltzco) it's okay not to make a big deal out of February 14th. And if you want to treat YOURSELF, we're always here for you!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page