Valentine’s Day isn’t just a romantic holiday — it’s one of the most fun days of the year in the classroom as kids share some treats and their affection for each other. But do you know how Valentine’s Day evolved from a lesser saint’s feast day into a multi-billion dollar industry? The story may surprise you. Check out some of the highlights in the evolution of this popular holiday:
Lupercalia and the Romans
Like many holidays we now take for granted, Valentine’s Day coincides with a pagan festival. Lupercalia was a mid-February Roman observance celebrating the she-wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus. During the festivities, young women were paired with unmarried men, and these matches reportedly led to romance and marriages.
The Original St. Valentine
She-wolves and Roman matchmaking were quickly replaced by the Catholic Church to suppress pagan rituals as the church expanded. The church named February 14 the feast day of Saint Valentine, a third-century priest in Rome who secretly married young couples. According to legend, the Romans believed that single men made better soldiers and outlawed marriage for their best fighters, but Valentine took pity on young lovers and joined them in matrimony — and was martyred for his compassion.
Will You Be My Valentine?
Valentine’s Day was popular with courtly lovers throughout the Middle Ages, but the oldest surviving paper Valentine was penned by the Duke of Orleans in 1415, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Though love letters were always flying through the post, decorative greeting cards really caught fire in the Victorian Era, when inexpensive, printed cards were more readily available to the middle classes. Handmade Valentines and floral bouquets also became common in the 19th century, and they’ve maintained their popularity with romantic hopefuls ever since.
Valentine’s Day in Today’s Classroom
Though February 14 was once a potentially heartbreaking popularity contest, today’s teachers have found creative ways to be more inclusive in their Valentine’s Day celebrations. Instead of only giving Valentines to one’s friends, many teachers have their students write a compliment or kind note to each person in the class. Does your school have a no-sugar policy? Change your theme from candy to heart-healthy snacks. You can also give those heart decorations a more educational angle with some ideas from the American Heart Association. With some creativity, you can allow your students to enjoy the celebration while creating a totally modern sense of the ever-evolving meaning of Valentine’s Day.
Looking for even more great ideas for your classroom and your students? Check out our other Valentine’s Day articles on the Classroom Connection blog and visit our Valentine’s Day Pinterest board for even more inspiration!