Should You Celebrate Valentine’s Day? (2024)

I walked through the grocery store six to eight weeks ago and noticed an entire aisle of heart-shaped boxes containing cheap chocolates. I knew that aisle to be the seasonal aisle, the anachronistic part of the grocery store, the aisle where what is sold and what time of year it is doesn’t match. That was my first hint that Valentine’s Day was coming.1 By the mere commercial size of the holiday, it is easy to see that Valentine’s Day is a secular holiday without much care as to whether Christians participate or not aside from the depth of their wallets. And yet most Christians with even a modicum of knowledge of church history have a vague feeling that this holiday is, was, or could be (with the right intention) a Christian holiday. So, in this brief essay, I hope to clear up all these vague notions and provide some Christian thoughts on Valentine’s Day.

Valentine Spurious

The way Valentine’s Day is typically justified as a Christian holiday goes something like this: “There was this great Christian guy named Valentine. He was a renowned matchmaker, maybe even a pastor. Oh, and he was also martyred. Somewhere in there, maybe to a girl he loved, and before his martyrdom, he wrote a romantic letter and signed it, ‘from your Valentine.’ It was sooooo romantic. And then everyone started celebrating Valentine’s Day to remember his matchmaking, sacrifice, and love.” The only problem with all of this is that some, or all, or most of it didn’t happen.

There were actually two Valentines. The first was a priest that was martyred on the Flaminian Way under Emperor Claudius sometime in the third century. The second Valentine was the bishop of Terni, pope for a few months, and then martyred in Rome sometime early in the ninth century. There are legendary tales surrounding these men that involve matchmaking and unrequited love. And by “legendary tales,” I mean probably not true. So if you want to take your wife out to a nice dinner on February 14 and throw a few dollars into the Hallmark coffer, all in the name of two martyred priests, go for it. You do you. But there is a more excellent way.

Romanticism Isn’t Romantic

But before we get to that more excellent way, let’s make a brief excursus to discuss romance. Romantic love as such, is great and biblical (more on that in a minute). But there was also this brief period in the development of Western thought that went a little overboard and made a cartoonish caricature out of romantic love. This interdisciplinary philosophical movement is called Romanticism and occurred in the latter part of the eighteenth century in conjunction with the French Revolution. And despite how much you love Les Miserables, the French Revolution was bad for Christianity. Romanticism highlighted individualism, subjective experience, and emotionalism. When it came to love, Romanticism took the brief moments of beautiful ecstasy that can (and should) accompany covenant love and defined those passing moments as love itself. Romanticism mistook the fruit for the tree and, in the process, destroyed both. When someone says that they have “fallen in love” or “fallen out of love,” whether they know it or not, that person is expressing a Romantic (capital R) view of love, not a biblical view of love. Biblical covenant love can’t be fallen into or out of; it can only be committed to or broken.

Make Valentine’s Day an evangelistic day, where the world, grasping for something meaningful, looks at Christian marriages and says, ‘Who cares about roses and chocolates, I want what those people have.’”

—Joe Holland

And now we arrive at the problem of Valentine’s Day. Love and romance aren’t about chasing or manufacturing emotional highs. Those highs may (and do) accompany covenant love, but they do not define it any more than an apple is an apple tree. So, secular Valentine’s Day, as I see it, is a vaguely Christian commercial endeavor designed to reinforce the ideals of Romanticism and make a ton of money for retailers in the process. Change my mind.

Romantic Love Is Christian Marriage

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with Christian marriage. Christian marriage is the only intentional picture of biblical love.2 Christian marriage is the only definition of true romantic and covenant love for (at least) four reasons:

  1. It is between a man and a woman. In the wake of Obergefell and whatever legislation may seek to define marriage as something other than what God has said, it is essential to stubbornly reiterate that romantic love is between a man and a woman.
  2. It is life-long. Don’t get me started on couples writing their own wedding vows and leaving out “until death do us part.” That phrase isn’t a poetic rendering of well-wishes that “maybe, kinda, in the right circ*mstances, we might ride this thing out and stay married, if you don’t make me too angry, and meet all my needs.” No. The marriage covenant is a covenant to death. The ideal marriage ceremony includes a funeral service at the other end, where one spouse rejoices that the other has gone on to be with Jesus and that both of them have been faithful to what they promised—covenant love. You’d think the mention of funerals makes all of this very NOT romantic. It is actually quite the opposite. Married folks will know what I’m talking about.
  3. It is founded on the gospel. The gospel first calls us all sinners, woefully deficient to meet God’s standard of righteousness. The gospel also proclaims Jesus as the only savior for sinners, for those who come to him by faith. Covenant love, biblical love, is gospel love and is only present in a Christian marriage. A Christian marriage is where two sinners forgive and are forgiven. It isn’t about compromise, authenticity, holding space, or anything like that. It is about loving sacrifice after the pattern of Jesus.
  4. It is the pattern of Christ and the church. As Paul writes in Ephesians 5:22–32, human marriage is ultimately a picture of the relationship between Jesus and the church.3

There is more to say, but we can stop here. It is enough to say that biblical love, covenant love is the true picture of romantic love rather than the carnival mirror image that commercialized Romanticism wants to parade out once a year on February 14. And speaking of annual occurrences, we need to discuss observances.

Too Weak, Too Infrequent

Whether it is because of banks, the federal government committee on holiday observances, or how we celebrate our own birthdays, we tend to think of holidays as annual occurrences. Whereas the Old Testament definitely had its fair share of annual holidays, the New Testament has only a single weekly holiday (no matter what the Anglicans tell you). On the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Rev. 1:10; John 20:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2), Christians gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and all the benefits that the church, his bride, receives from that great victory over sin, death, and the devil. Sunday worship is covenant worship, and it weekly reminds us of the marital union between Jesus and the church.

So how often should we celebrate our marital love? Yearly is far too long based on the pattern that Jesus gives as he celebrates with his wife weekly. And no, I’m not necessarily advocating for a sacrosanct date night. If that works for you, do it. But the biblical pattern teaches us that romantic love between husband and wife should be on display often and much. It isn’t that celebrating Valentine’s Day is too much; it is too little and weak. Christians, live your married years so that you don’t need Valentine’s Day. Make Valentine’s Day an evangelistic day, where the world, grasping for something meaningful, looks at Christian marriages and says, “Who cares about roses and chocolates, I want what those people have.”

  1. That aisle is always my first clue that a holiday is close but not near. I look at that aisle in confusion and say, “Surely it can’t be X holiday yet.” Then I resolve my confusion and remind myself that that aisle is a grossly early harbinger of whatever holiday isn’t even remotely near but definitely next.
  2. I say intentional because marriage is a creational ordinance. When a non-Christian man and a non-Christian woman covenant in marriage to a life-long faithfulness, they are imaging the biblical ideal, though unintentionally. It is unintentional because a non-Christian marriage lacks the gospel, a key ingredient of Christian marriage, a marriage that intentionally images the relationship between Jesus and the church.
  3. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Gen. 2:18–25 is the true protoevangelium rather than Gen. 3:15. I say this because the gospel was pictured in Adam and Eve’s marriage before it was promised immediately after the fall in the serpent-crushing seed.
Joe Holland

Joe Holland is professor of Christian ministry and academic dean for Grimké College. He also serves as managing editor for Grimké Seminary and College.

Should You Celebrate Valentine’s Day? (2024)


Should You Celebrate Valentine’s Day? ›

Opting out of Valentine's Day isn't a reflection on your relationship or your love. It matters not how you celebrate this one day, but how you treat your relationship on all the rest. Sure, the big bouquets, giant boxes of chocolate, or bags of Swedish Fish can be fun (and delicious).

Should we celebrate Valentine's day? ›

“Ultimately, V-Day is often a day to express love and affection toward your partner, so for those who have personal reasons for not wanting to celebrate, I encourage them just to see it as another day to express love for the person(s) in their life who deserve their flowers 365 days of the year.” So even if one half of ...

Is it normal to not celebrate Valentine's day? ›

While it might be fun to grab some roses or a silly pair of Cupid boxers on occasion, deep love and unwavering commitment to another person can be celebrated on other days and in other ways, and that means it's totally OK to forgo the tradition of V-Day if you'd like.

Why do some people not like Valentine's day? ›

Many, on the other hand, associate the holiday with feelings of depression, loneliness, and desperation. The most common reason that you would grow to hate Valentine's Day is that you only consider it to be a celebration of couples and romantic love.

What is the true meaning of Valentine's day? ›

While the date is meant to honor Saint Valentine's death and burial, which supposedly occurred in mid-February around 270 AD, some historians believe the date could reflect the Catholic Church's attempt to replace the ancient Pagan celebration of Lupercalia — a fertility festival for the pagan agricultural god Faunus — ...

Is Valentine's day important for couples? ›

So, it is wrong to say that Valentine's Day is just meant for couples. It's a day for celebrating love in all its forms, from self-love to love between friends and family members. Whether you are single or in a relationship, there are many ways to celebrate this special day.

Is Valentine's day biblical? ›

Valentine's Day is a peculiar Christian holiday not mentioned in the New Testament—unsurprisingly, as it was instituted in honor of a third-century c.e. “saint” named Valentine.

Is it OK to not have a Valentine? ›

There is no rule that you need to celebrate or even acknowledge Valentine's Day. However, don't let social media, store displays, or stories of others make you feel bad about your relationship status. February 14th is just one day of the year. There is no reason why you can't treat it as though it's just another day.

How many Americans do not celebrate Valentine's day? ›

Not all Americans will be celebrating Valentine's Day, but most who have a romantic partner will be. Sixty-eight percent of Americans who are in a committed romantic relationship plan to celebrate the holiday, compared to a third who are not. Overall, half of Americans plan to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Is there a point to Valentine's day? ›

It originated as a Christian feast day honoring a martyr named Valentine, and through later folk traditions it has also become a significant cultural, religious and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.

Is Valentine's day losing popularity? ›

Some have lost their love for the heart-shaped holiday.

That's especially true among Gen Zers (53%) and millennials (51%). However, that mentality doesn't hold true for all: 45% of Americans say they've skipped the holiday to save money, and over half (52%) say they'd avoid it altogether if they could.

Why is Valentine's day controversial? ›

Despite the rich history surrounding Valentine's Day, today, this celebration is not without controversies. Some argue that the festivity has been excessively commercialized, becoming an occasion where consumerism prevails over the true essence of love and friendship.

Why don't Muslims celebrate Valentine's day? ›

In general, Muslims do not observe or celebrate Valentine's Day due to its origins, association with romantic love outside of marriage, and cultural influences that might contradict Islamic teachings.

What is the dark history behind Valentine's day? ›

One Valentine was a priest in third-century Rome who defied Emperor Claudius II after the ruler outlawed marriage for young men. St. Valentine would perform marriages in secret for young lovers, ultimately leading to his death.

What is the truth behind Valentine's day? ›

Turns out, it was a pretty common name during Late Antiquity. As far as anyone can tell, the Saint Valentine of Valentine's Day was one of two guys preaching the good word in Rome in the third century. One of these two was martyred on February 14th 269, thus giving us the date for his eponymous day.

Why is Valentine's day considered a pagan holiday? ›

Many historians believe the seeds of Valentine's Day were planted in Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival honoring Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage, and the Capitoline Wolf, a mythic creature who supposedly suckled Romulus and Remus, Rome's twin founders, when they were abandoned as infants.

Is Valentine's day a pagan holiday? ›

Some scholars have suggested that Valentine's Day has its roots in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia. Celebrated on February 15, Lupercalia was a bloody and even brutal affair in which animals would be sacrificed in the Lupercal cave at the base of Palatine Hill in Rome.

Why do we give Valentine's? ›

He was imprisoned in 269 AD, and was tortured, and beheaded on 14th February. He later became canonised by the Catholic church, and there after Saint Valentine became known as the patron saint of love. The act of giving gifts, such as flowers, chocolates and jewellery to loved ones grew over the years in popularity.

Is Valentine's day for anyone? ›

Valentine's Day for everyone is universal

You can feel part of something and not dwell on your relationship status. “I give a great big huge yes to this,” says writer/artist Deanna Washington, author of The Language of Gifts.

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