The Long History Of Valentine’s Day


“A lot of people call it a ‘Hallmark Holiday’,” said Olivet Nazarene Professor Noah Hansen. “(People say) that it’s over commercialized, but it has a really long history,” he added.

Hansen visited Rockford’s Midway Village Museum on Sunday to give a lecture on the origins of Valentine’s Day. The holiday dates back to as far as the Roman Empire.

“St. Valentine was martyred because he was performing secret weddings against the law of Emperor Claudius,” Hansen said. “(Claudius) had outlawed marriage because he made military service compulsory if you were an adult male,” he added.

In other words, Valentine, a priest during the period, was helping to marry single men who wanted to avoid being drafted into the Roman Army. Due to his actions, Valentine was beheaded by Emperor Claudius on February 14th, the day we now know as Valentine’s Day.

“When he was killed, it was a martyr by view of the Catholic Church, (on) which was the Ides of February, February 14th,” Hansen said.

St. Valentine’s Day was celebrated in his honor until the Victorian era changed things. “It became a lot more roses, flowers. The Victorian language of flowers had a big part in Valentine’s Day,” he said.

“In the 1860’s we have the first paper Valentines being made and mass produced. That became popular really during that time, and it’s just evolved from there to what we have today,” he added.

Hansen believes that knowing the historical value of holidays can enhance our appreciation of them.

“It’s important to look at the history of the holiday, see where these traditions come from, (to) see how this has evolved into our cultural traditions that we do today,” Hansen said.

The lecture this past Sunday was part of Midway Village’s ‘Winter Lecture Series’. Their next discussion will be about Rockford during the Prohibition era. You can find their events at

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