Valentine’s Day – what really at the heart of it?

As Valentine’s day rolls around again, the usual parade of heart shaped gifts, cuddly toys and luxury chocolates are gracing our shop windows. On the day itself, an estimated 144 million cards will be exchanged and in places like America a whopping 20 billion dollars will be spent on celebrating this day of love. But before we quite literally ‘buy into’ this holiday, what’s really at the heart of it?

The 14th of February has long since been linked to Saint Valentine, who died around 270 AD. It is said he was martyred by the Catholic church to recognise his work helping Christian couples wed in ancient Rome when Christianity was illegal. What most people don’t know, is that we’re not actually sure who Saint Valentine was as there are at least two men (if not more) who could plausibly be our famed patron saint of love.

Some historians believe the day actually originates from the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a festival promoting purification, health and fertility. In reality, it was a bloody and sexually charged celebration awash with animal sacrifice and random matchmaking in the hopes of warding off evil spirits and infertility. Quite different to the romanticised version we now know, which was heavily influenced by poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Shakespeare. Others think February has been linked to love by chance, noting that it just so happens to be the time that many European birds start mating.

So, it seems the history and origins of this popular day are less than clear, but our enthusiasm to celebrate love remains unquestioned. And it’s this enthusiasm for love that we must celebrate. Valentine’s Day has in the past been condemned as a way for big business to profit or for couples to flaunt their love in front of lonely singletons, but at the very heart of this day is our innate ability as humans to love. Perhaps in 2019, it is time to expand this celebration of love beyond one person and use it as a reminder to love yourself, your community and your environment.

Places like the South West Coast Path are special. Unlike cards and gifts that will no doubt be forgotten by this time next year, the environment around us is a living expression of our love. The places that are considered the most beautiful are the ones that are cared for and it’s no wonder as humans we are drawn to them as somewhere to make memories, alone or with our loved ones. If there’s somewhere on the Coast Path close to your heart, why not go and visit it this Valentine’s Day and take time to rejoice in the good that comes from our enthusiasm for love.

Looking for an alternative way to show your love this Valentine’s Day? Why not make a donation to the South West Coast Path Association and help to care for one of the country’s best loved National Trails. Visit:

Photo credit: Trevone Bay by photographer Alex Stevenson

Published on: Feb. 7, 2019