Valentine's Day History and Traditions
Every February we find ourselves in the midst of a pink and red love-fest, complete with flowers, chocolates and cards pronouncing true love. From those elementary school days when we gave our classmates cartoon character cards and candy hearts to our adult lives when we send (and/or receive) red roses and enjoy a romantic dinner with our sweetheart.
Have you ever wondered how this warm and fuzzy holiday came about? There are many different legends around Valentine’s Day. While it is well known that the holiday was named after its patron saint St. Valentine, most of us are in the dark about its origins and history. Read on for information about this lovers’ holiday.
History of Valentine’s Day
Although the holiday has both Roman and Christian roots, the earliest origins of Valentine’s Day can be traced to the Roman celebration entitled, called Lupercalia, which occurred year on February 15 and remained all the rage well into the fifth century A.D. approximately 150 years after Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named Valentine. Some tales state that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape Roman prisons where they were tortured. Other stories suggest that was a priest during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decreed that single men made more competent soldiers than those with wives, the emperor outlawed marriage for young men who were potential soldiers. Valentine rebelled against Claudius and still performed marriages of the young soldiers and their beloveds in secret. The legend has it that Valentine was discovered and Claudius therein ordered that he put to death.
One story suggests that Valentine sent the very first 'valentine' greeting to a young girl he fell in love with when she visited him in prison. Rumor has it that before he was ordered to death he sent a message to her signed with 'From your Valentine'.
Around the time of 498 A.D. the current Pope--Pope Gelasius—pronounced February 14 St. Valentine's Day. It was believed in France and England during the Middle Ages that February 14 marked the start of birds' mating season.
Origins of Valentine’s Day Greetings
The very oldest known “Valentine” which is still in existence and housed in the British Library in London is a poem written by a Duke who was imprisoned in the Tower of London (Charles, the Duke of Orleans) to his wife in 1415.
During the seventeenth century, Valentine's Day began to be celebrated in Great Britain. In the 18th century it was popular for friends and lovers—no matter the social class--to exchange handwritten notes and/or tokens of their love and affection. As time went on, written letters were sometimes replaced with printed cards as improvements were made in the industry of printing technology.
It is estimated that Americans began to exchange handmade valentines during the 1700s. A woman named Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentine cards in America.
Valentine’s Day Today
As we all know, the age-old tradition of sending Valentine’s Day cards lives on.
Approximately one billion valentine cards are sent each year according to the Greeting Card Association. Valentine's Day is the second largest card-sending holiday of the year; Christmas consistently places in the top spot.
Along with the United States, Valentine's Day is also widely celebrated in the United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Canada and Australia.
Find Valentine’s Day flowers at FromYouFlowers.com.