Apostrophe tips: valentines day or valentine's day

By Strategically AI. Reviewed by Rebecca Hey.
Updated December 7, 2022
5 minute read
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One common grammar problem people encounter when writing in the English language is apostrophes. They can be tricky to get right. Making sure you use the correct style is important, especially when writing academically or professionally.

One common issue is whether to use Valentines or Valentine's when discussing Valentine's Day. 

If this is a problem that bothers you, you're in luck! You don't have to search for the answer any further. 

This blog will confirm the correct term to use when discussing Valentine's Day or valentines. We'll also discuss where Saint Valentine comes from and why we celebrate it today. 

Why do we celebrate Saint Valentine's day?

Valentine's Day is always on February 14th. It's a holiday associated with romance and love. Partners exchange cards, gifts, and flowers and often celebrate with a meal. But where did this tradition come from?

The origins of the day are mysterious, but some theorists suggest that Christians chose the date to hold a feast on purpose to shift attention away from a Pagan fertility festival celebrated on February 15th. Other historians think the day is marked for St Valentine's death or funeral being the same day. Unfortunately, there is no way to check. It could have started initially to blend the Christian and Pagan holidays or to remember St Valentine's life. 

Who was Saint Valentine?

While you might think that Valentine is only one person, that isn't the case. When deciphering who Valentine's Day represents, it's clear there are multiple saints named Valentine to who we could attribute St Valentine's Day. 

The first is supposedly a man who married young male soldiers to their women secretly after the Roman emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for men in the army. When the emperor discovered the secret nuptials, he allegedly had Valentine imprisoned. While held captive, Valentine reportedly cured a young woman's blindness. 

Before being executed, he is said to have written a letter and ended it with 'Your Valentine.' Allegedly, that's where the phrase comes from. 

Another supposed saint could be a man named Valentine, who supported Christian's escape from brutal prisons in the Roman Empire where they were being tortured. Again the story goes that he was writing a letter and signed it 'From Your Valentine.'

The final potential was St Valentine of Terni, a bishop who was beheaded by the same Roman Emperor Claudius II. 

While the stories all reference different people, they are similar. Valentine is usually portrayed as a sympathetic hero looking out for the underdog. 

Whatever theory for the origin of the popular holiday, one thing is true. Valentine's Day is synonymous with romance and love in the 21st century. While lovers often go out for a meal, they don't tend to sit down and have a Valentine's feast as originally happened on the Christian holiday. 

Valentines day or valentine's day

If you're wondering what the punctuation rules are when referring to St Valentine's Day, you should always use an apostrophe. 

An apostrophe is a piece of punctuation that has two functions. They either show possession or represent a situation where letters have been removed and words shortened together. For example, it's as opposed to it is. 

February 14th is called St Valentine's Day. We refer to the day belonging to St Valentine. So it follows the rules for using an apostrophe.

While we're on the subject, St Patrick's Day on March 17th has the same rules for possession. An apostrophe is appropriate to use in this context. 

What about when saying happy Valentine's Day?

When you write 'Happy Valentine's Day,' you are still referring to a day that belongs to St Valentine, so the apostrophe is still appropriate. The Chicago Manual of Style designates the holiday as a singular possessive noun alongside the Associated Press Stylebook. 

How to use Valentine

There are several ways to use the word valentine. Firstly, it can be a proper noun in which St Valentine is referenced, who is the saint of love and the saint that Saint Valentine's Day is named after. In this context, you should always use capitalisation. 

An example of some sentences that have the proper noun for Valentine's Day: 

  • Happy Valentine's Day
  • We're meeting up on Valentine's Day. 
  • Our Valentine's Day date. 
  • I don't see the point in Valentine's Day. What about the rest of the year?

Secondly, it can be a common noun that does not require capitalisation. Usually, this would reference getting or giving a valentine gift, or referring to a person you like or your partner as your valentine. 

Here are some examples of valentine in a sentence: 

  • I got you a valentine's photo of us. 
  • You're my valentine.
  • I sent you a valentine's card in the post this week. 
  • I got multiple valentines this year for the first time in my life. 

Wrapping up

In this article, we've taken the time to explain the correct punctuation for St Valentine's Day. We hope we've helped answer this standard punctuation error for you. 

You now know that when you write St Valentine's Day, as it's a possessive noun, it requires an apostrophe. The Chicago Manual and the Associated Press Stylebook appear as a singular possessive noun, meaning it's a day belonging to Valentine. 

Valentine is also used as a common noun which is lowercase, with no capitalisation and follows the standards for noun apostrophe guidelines. You can describe a card or gift as related to Valentine's Day. You can say 'valentine's card' while not discussing St Valentine's. 

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Rebecca Hey
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