Valentine's Day: Do you know the origins of the holiday?

Whether you’re coupled, single, celebrating Galentine’s Day or eulogizing the end of "cuffing" season — when Valentine’s Day hits on February 14th, we are inexorably forced to reflect on that status.

Fox News spoke to an expert who deals with love year-round in order to learn more about the holiday. Nikki Lewis is co-founder of the BEVY, a bespoke matchmaking service located in New York and California, and she explained that while the theories surrounding Valentine’s Day are murky, the stories behind them have helped to contribute to the holiday we currently celebrate (begrudgingly or not).

“My favorite story surrounds Valentine, who lived around 270 A.D. under the rule of Emperor Claudius II,” said Lewis. “Claudius decided to outlaw marriage because he wanted his soldiers ready for battle, and not be worried about returning home to their wife and kids. That’s where the romantic Saint Valentine came in, and started performing marriages in private for young lovers.”


Lewis explained that Emperor Claudius II soon found out about St. Valentine’s secret marriage ceremonies and sent him to jail to be executed. Before Saint Valentine was executed, however, Lewis said Valentine fell in love with his prison guard’s daughter, who would visit him in his cell.

Nikki Lewis, one of the matchmakers behind BEVY, has done her research into the history of Valentine's Day.

Nikki Lewis, one of the matchmakers behind BEVY, has done her research into the history of Valentine's Day.

“From his cell, St. Valentine actually ended up writing the first ‘Valentine’ as we come to know it, and signed it, ‘From your Valentine,’ which is a term that we still use today,” said Lewis.

Lewis also shared with Fox News the story of the pagan celebration Lupercalia. She explained that Lupercalia was celebrated in Rome between Feb. 13 and Feb. 15 to stave off evil and celebrate fertility.

“Roman priests displayed early signs of matchmaking, actually, during this festival, and they would pull women's names at random out of an urn and couple them up with men in attendance,” said Lewis. “And at this wild intoxicated party, they would couple them up, tell them to copulate, and sometimes marriage would be a byproduct of this rowdy, inebriated celebration.”

Lewis explained that 14th-century poet Geoffrey Chaucer also helped lay out the present-day idea of Valentine’s day in his poem “The Parliament of Fowls.”

“Chaucer talked about the ‘coupling’ on St. Valentine's Day and made it a romantic notion, so he's the one who kind of romanticized a rowdy, pagan holiday that had recently been more Christianized to celebrate a day of love,” said Lewis.


The professional matchmaker explained that by the 1800s, people were writing their lovers handwritten notes and giving them small gifts. She added that with the advancement of technology, printed Valentine’s Day cards began to catch on, too.

“There's actually 145 million Valentine's Day cards sent in the U.S. every year, making it the second-largest card-giving holiday — second after Christmas, which is mind-blowing if you think about all the money spent, the millions of dollars spent on Valentine's Day,” explained Lewis.

So, what was Lewis’s biggest piece of advice for Valentine’s day?

“Act like every day is Valentine’s with your significant other. You don’t have to have a holiday to do something special for him or her!"


For more Valentine’s Day advice, Fox News asked industry experts, including Franco Sampogna, co-owner and chef of contemporary French restaurant FREVO; Vincent Pilato, the Skull & Bones designer underwear founder; David Winston, the co-owner of Winston Flowers; and Bollinger Champagne's Cyril Delarue & Charles-Armand de Belenet.

Fox News: What does it take to pull off the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner service?

Franco Sampogna: The menu, for one. We want to ensure that every client leaves with a pleasant memory for this special day. Everyone has a slightly different take on Valentine’s Day dinner, so it is important to recognize that and curate an exceptional culinary experience for them. Another important thing to consider while planning the menu is the perfect wine pairing to go with the dishes — thankfully at Frevo we have our talented sommelier, Quentin Vauleon, to advise. And lastly, the ambiance: That includes the perfect amount of lighting for our guests and music at just the right volume.

Fox News: What’s the key to buying underwear for a significant other?

Vincent Pilato: When buying underwear for your significant other, keep in mind what they generally like to wear on a daily basis. You can buy a style for a “special occasion” that may be different from their daily arsenal, but be mindful of the construction, the feel of the fabric and the waistband. If you gift undergarments that have a premium feel, they will likely be worn more often than those special occasions.

Fox News: What’s the most common mistake people make when it comes to flowers?

David Winston: You can never go wrong with a dozen red roses in a classic vase or box, but I think people often overlook different, more unexpected varieties for Valentine’s Day. Flowers like orchids, calla lilies, and sweet pea aren’t quite as traditional but are equally beautiful. We like to create arrangements with those types of unique, specialty flowers and incorporate roses as part of the design — the result feels fresh and modern but still gives a nod to tradition.


Fox News: For novice drinkers who never really buy champagne, what is your biggest piece of advice?

Cyril Delarue & Charles-Armand de Belenet: Rather than feeling intimidated, look to the wine shop’s trusted sales associates for suggestions. Ask for something that gives pleasure, something rich and complex that will appeal to your Valentine… Look for bottles with a vintage date for someone extra special, like Bollinger La Grande Année 2008, to showcase the best expression of the year from a producer. One final small piece of advice is to seek out Brut or Extra Brut champagnes as they are drier and more crisp in style, with less residual sugar added. With Valentine’s Day, it is better to enjoy the sugar in your chocolate, rather than in the Champagne!  

Fox News: What are the three easiest dishes you suggest to make at home to impress a date?

Sampogna: As a Chef, it’s easy to recommend a lot of different options. But I truly think that cooking a risotto would be at the top of my list. It’s versatile, quick to cook and delicious. You can tailor it to your partner’s preferences: mushroom risotto, vegetable risotto, and if you really want to impress him or her, black truffle risotto. Black truffles are in season from January to end of February, so even though the end is fast approaching, there is definitely still time to include it into your dish. Preparation time for risotto is also quite fast: requiring approximately 20-30 minutes, and you can even prepare beforehand by pre-cooking the rice for 15 minutes. This way, you can also spend quality time with your significant other without spending the entire night in the kitchen. Overall, I would say that it is the perfect dish for a date night and a special occasion like Valentine’s Day.


Fox News: What’s your biggest piece of advice for purchasing skivvies?

Pilato: It’s Valentine’s day. Choose underwear that's festive, in-line with the holiday. Reds & Pinks in terms of colors, and to cap off, something sexy.

Fox News: How has gifting of flowers changed over the years?

Winston: Years ago, we only sold red roses, but each year our collection gets broader and more diverse in response to changing customer needs. People are now leaning toward new and different designs with unique flower varieties, interesting textures, and novel silhouettes. We’ve also noticed that the spectrum of people who receive gifts on Valentine’s Day has broadened. No longer are gifts just for partners, but for moms, kids, and men as well.

Fox News: Do you have any fun facts about Champagne when it comes to love and Valentine’s day?

Delarue & de Belenet: Not only a perfect culinary experience, but it is also believed that certain foods, including raw oysters and Champagne, can fuel passion as an aphrodisiac. We’ve also heard a few people say that the aromas of dry Champagne can replicate the delicate aromas of female pheromones. Coco Chanel said it best: “I just drink Champagne on two occasions,  when I am in love and when I am not." And while not specific to Valentine’s Day, you may not know that Marilyn Monroe famously took a bath in Champagne. More than 350 bottles were needed to fill up the tub, but we do not recommend recreating this experience with Bollinger Champagne!

Watch the full interview above with Bevy co-founder Nikki Lewis above for more on the history of Valentine’s Day.


Emily DeCiccio is a reporter and video producer for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio