A Brief History of Valentine’s Day

By Marijo Tinlin February 13, 2011 No Comments   

Is Valentine’s Day a Hallmark® holiday meant as an excuse for wives to get a nice dinner or is there some history behind it?

According to The History Channel’s website, www.history.com, there is quite a bit of interesting thoughts about why we celebrate this holiday of chocolates, flowers and greeting cards, oh yeah, and expressing our love for each other.

In Catholicism, there are three saints named Valentine or Valentinus. In one ledged, the Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed married men from fighting in his army because he believed single men fought harder. A priest named Valentine continued to perform secret marriage ceremonies until he was discovered and put to death.

Another tale suggests Valentine may have sent the first valentine. During his imprisonment, he fell in love with a young woman, whom some say was the jailor’s daughter. Before his execution, he allegedly wrote a love letter to this woman and signed it “From Your Valentine.”

Pope Gelasius set February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day around 498 A.D. in what some believe to be an attempt at “Christianizing” a Roman holiday of Lupercalia, the Spring fertility and purification ritual.

Also according to this website, the oldest valentine still in existence is from 1415. It was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife. He wrote it during his imprisonment in The Tower of London. It is still in the British Library in London, England.

The holiday continued to grow in popularity throughout the 17th and 18th centuries in Great Britain. Most expressions of love were handwritten notes or small tokens. When the printing press gained greater use, pre-printed cards began to overtake the handwritten notes. The first American mass-market card seller was Esther A. Howland during the 1840s.

It’s interesting that 85% of all valentines are bought by women. What’s up with that, guys? Over 1 billion valentines are sent each year which makes it the second largest greeting card holiday behind Christmas, when over 2.6 billion are sent.  Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, France and Australia all recognize and celebrate this holiday.

So now when you give your sweetheart his or her valentine tomorrow, you’ll know a little more about why we do that. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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