Valentine's Day History

Valentine's Day is an excellent way to show someone you care and it is this reason that makes this day so popular the world over. To know more about Valentines Day, read on.
| Monday, January 25, 2010
In this fast paced world it's really a blessing to have a day in which to celebrate love, an emotion that is pure and difficult to disregard. Over the years Valentine's Day has become more popular and that only goes to prove the importance of celebrating love, of showing and sharing this emotion with loved ones. This Valentines Day let's not forget the person who created this day and gave us a reason to celebrate.

As we go deeper into the subject about the history behind Valentines Day it is a little disappointing since there is not much information available. A legend that there is brings to the fore the knowledge that this day originated from the Roman festival of Lupercalia or Lupercalis, which was a celebration of fertility. This day was celebrated on 15th Feb annually. Now when there was a rise in Christianity in Europe; holidays such as this which were considered pagan were renamed and dedicated to Christian martyrs. It is said that this celebration of fertility was no exception. It was thus that Lupercalia was turned into a Christian feast day and celebrated a day earlier. This was done by Pope Gelasius in 496 AD. It was this Pope that proclaimed that 14th February should have a feast which would be in honor of St. Valentine, who was a Roman martyr in the 3rd century.

More information about the history of Valentines Day mentions that there were at least three Christian saints that had the name Valentine and that all of them were martyred on the 14th of Feb. One of them was said to be a Bishop in Teri while another was a priest in Rome. Little is know about the third St. Valentine. The history behind Valentines Day further agrees that St. Valentine was a Bishop who went against the wishes of Claudius II who prohibited marriages for young men. The reason for the ban being that the golden era of the Roman Empire was coming to an end because there weren't enough quality administrators. Soon this reason led to decline in education which effected trade and led to an increase in taxation. Crisis surrounded Rome which led to an increase in capable men being sought to fight for their country. Claudius II who became the emperor of Rome was of the opinion that married men were not good soldiers since there were attached to their families; this was what caused him to come up with the decision of banning marriages. As expected people in Rome were shocked with this ban but were too frightened to say anything. This is when Bishop Valentine came to their rescue and married lovers in a secret place. Once this came to the notice of Claudius II he was enraged and had St. Valentine arrested.

In prison St Valentine was approached by Asterius who was his jailor who had heard about St. Valentine's saintly abilities and wanted him to heal his blind daughter. St. Valentine was able to do the needful with divine intervention. Valentine later came face to face with Claudius II who tried to convince Valentine to agree that the ban was good for Rome. He even went further and tried to make St. Valentine agree to worship the Roman gods. Despite all his efforts Valentine stuck to his belief. This gesture made Claudius II angry and he ordered the execution of Valentine. Within this time Asterius daughter and Valentine had become good friends, thus before he was executed Valentine wrote a farewell note to his friend and signed it "Form your Valentine." It is this phrase that had surpassed the boundaries of time and lives on. Of course there is another legend that even mentions that Valentine fell in love with the jailor's daughter. Historians do not pay much attention to this legend. This Bishop is said to have been executed on 14th February, 270 AD.

As time passed by this holiday evolved and by the 18th century included gift giving and exchanging hand made cards. This practice first began in England and later spread to American colonies. This eventually led to the production of the first American Valentines Day greeting cards which were created by Esther A. Howlanda Mount Holyoke. It was her creativity that led to the tradition catching up in the United States. Today this day is one of the major holidays in the United States!

Historical Facts about Valentines Day

  • The 1700's and 1800's saw the sale of handbooks known as "valentine writers." These books included verses and suggestions about writing valentines.
  • The 1700's saw unmarried women putting 5 bay leaves on their pillow on this holiday. One of the bay leaves was placed in the center with the others placed on each corner. This charm was supposed to let them see their future husband in their dream.
  • The custom of sending verses based on love is linked to a Frenchman named Charles. He was the Duke of Orleans who was captured by the British in 1415. It was while he was in prison that he sent a rhyming letter to his wife.
  • It was from the mid 1800's that comic valentines known as "penny dreadful" were sent. Insulting verses were written on these cards and were sold for a penny. One of the verses was,

                'Tis all in vain your simpering looks,

                You never can incline,

                With all your bustles, stays, and curls,

               To find a valentine.

  • One historical fact about Valentine's Day includes the practice of writing names of women on slips of paper. These slips of paper were put into a jar and drawn by men. The women whose name was drawn became their valentine. Gifts such as gloves and fancy balls were among the few gifts men gave their valentines.
  • Information revealed by the Greeting Card Association reveal that about one million valentine cards are sent every year. This figure makes Valentine's Day the second largest holiday in which cards are sent.
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