How People Celebrated Valentine's Back In The Day

The origins of Valentine's Day are shrouded in romantic mystery. Some historians say St. Valentine was a Roman martyr, executed for performing secret marriages between lovers despite the emperor's ban on such unions at the time. Before he was punished for the offense, he supposedly left a note for one of his boos, signing it: "From your Valentine" — so think about that the next time you half-ass a card for your S.O.

There are other historians who suggest Valentine's Day is merely a Christian attempt to stake claim to the pagan holiday, Lupercalia, which was celebrated on February 15. This "lovers festival" involved erotic flogging and fertility rituals, and seems a lot more fun than what Valentine had going on.

Whatever the actual origins are, Valentine's Day celebrations must have changed over the years, so I sourced information from folks over 50 about how they engaged with the holiday in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The consensus is that V-Day cliches die hard, but that the holiday was more about couples until recently, when it morphed into the love free-for-all involving anyone you happen to care about. Here's what a few folks had to say about celebrating V-Day back in the day:

1. Sylvia, 70

When I was in my 20s in the late 60s, the guy had to buy the presents, no ifs ands or buts. Dinner, roses, jewelry, flowers, chocolate.

2. Dawn, 66

In college in the 70s, there was always a Valentine's Day dance. The frats would have a live band come and play and there'd be booze and sex for the adventurous types — of which I wasn't one

3. Kathleen, 68

Valentine's Day was really hard when it was more one-on-one romantic-focused years ago. The commercialization over the past few decades has helped in a sense that anyone you love can be a Valentine, from your cousin to your mother to your best friend.

4. Sean, 74

As a teenager in the 50s, all I remember was wanting to only give a card to the girls I liked, but the school made us give them to everyone, so nobody's feelings were hurt.

5. Dale, 70

It was a lot less lusty back then. Valentine's was about romance, not sex.

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