Valentine’s Day: Behind the Holiday
If you’re like us, you love Valentine’s Day! The gorgeous cards, the sweet candy and all the love that goes around on February 14 are just some of the things that make it special. But have you ever wondered why we celebrate Valentine’s Day every February and where and how it originally began? Well, you’re about to find out as Kidzworld takes you behind the holiday!
Who was Valentine?
Though we know the patron saint of the holiday is St. Valentine, the origins and meaning of Valentine’s Day is still shrouded in mystery!
According to one legend, Valentine was a priest in the third century in Rome. When the emperor passed a law that soldiers had to be single. Valentine didn’t agree with the emperor, and continued to perform marriages in secret. He was eventually imprisoned and sentenced to death by the emperor.
Another story says the same priest was actually the first person to send a “Valentine” message. While he was in prison he fell in love with the daughter of the man who had jailed him. Before his death he wrote her a letter and signed it “From your Valentine.”
Why February 14?
Some people say the reason we celebrate Valentine’s Day in the middle of February is to commemorate the day Valentine died. Others claim that, since February was the beginning of spring in ancient Rome, it’s a good time to celebrate love and new beginnings.
Officially, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 Valentine’s Day around 498 B.C. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 marked the start of birds’ mating season – this added to the idea that the date should be a day for romance.
Candy, cards and gifts?
Besides what the original priest Valentine may have written in ancient Rome, the oldest known Valentine still in existence today is a poem that was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after he was captured during battle. Written in 1415, the greeting is kept in the manuscript collection of the British Library in London.
Soon after Charles wrote his Valentine, King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a Valentine note to his flame, Catherine of Valois.
In England, Valentine’s Day started to be popularly celebrated during the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th century, it was pretty common to find friends and lovers of all social classes exchanging small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.
By the end of the 18th century (due to the invention of the printing press) printed cards started to replace written letters. Ready made cards were an easy way for people to express their feelings, especially since they were living at a time when that type of thing was frowned upon.
It’s believed that Americans started exchanging handmade Valentines in the early 1700s and, in the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced Valentines in the U.S. Known as the Mother of the Valentine, Howland made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colourful pictures.