Valentine’s Day: History and Greetings
The origins of St. Valentine’s Day
It is a great mystery how Valentine’s Day originated and who was St. Valentine, its patron saint. It is a well-known fact that February was a month of love affairs for ancient Romans. Besides, everybody knows that this day refers to both ancient Roman and Christian traditions. However, a lot of questions remain unanswered.
About 150 million cards are sent on Valentine's Day every year.
Legends about St. Valentine
The background of the holiday is vague. The Catholic Church tells about three martyrs named Valentine. One story says that St. Valentine was a priest in Rome in the third century; he performed marriages of young couples even when Emperor Claudius II declared marriages illegal. Valentine did his job in secret, but still he was arrested and put to death for that. Another legend says that Valentine saved Christians from tortures in Roman prisons. He was imprisoned and fell in love with a young girl, probably the daughter of a jailor. He wrote her a love letter with the words “From your Valentine” to show his feelings. In all legends, Valentine is a romantic and heroic saint, popular among the people.
The history of Valentine’s Day
One of the possible explanations of the Valentine’s Day origin is the commemoration of Valentine’s death in A.D. 270. Another one is placing the holiday in February by the Christian church to involve Lupercalia pagan festival of fertility, dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture and Romulus and Remus, into Christianity. Roman women followed all the traditions of that day as they believed they could improve their fertility in the next year. On that day, the young women in the city put the notes with their names in a big urn for bachelors to choose. The matched young people became paired for a year or even for the whole life.
Romance on Valentine’s Day
In the 5th century, Lupercalia was deemed non-Christian and outlawed. Pope Gelasius declared the date of February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day, but only later that day got its modern meaning. In the Middle Ages, people in France and England believed that the birds’ mating season started on February 14, so that was a suitable day for romance. Middle Ages gave start of the Valentine greetings, but they got their written form only in 1400. The oldest valentine is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415. A few years after, King Henry V wanted to send a valentine note to Catherine of Valois and even hired a writer for that.
Greetings on Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the US, the UK, Canada, Mexico, Australia and France. In Great Britain, greetings on Valentine’s Day started in the 17th century. Americans began exchanging valentines in the early 1700s. In the nineteenth century, they started selling first mass-produced valentines. “Mother of the Valentine,” Howland made beautiful cards with ribbons, lace, and pictures. Now 1 billion cards are sent annually.