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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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Images: Unsplash; Giphy (5)