The History Of Valentine’s Day
We’re all familiar with the hearts and candies and flowers associated with Valentine’s Day, but where did this sweetheart of a holiday originally come from?
Many people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day every February 14 by expressing their love through flowers, candy and cards. The holiday is actually named after a shady figure named Saint Valentine.
Who was Saint Valentine? According to one legend, he was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When the emperor at the time decided single men made better soldiers than men with wives and families, he made it illegal for all young men to marry. Valentine thought this was totally unfair, and he defied the emperor by continuing to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When the emperor found out, Valentine was sentenced to death.
But other stories say Valentine was a guy who helped Christians escape from harsh Roman prisons where they were beaten and tortured. And to add to the confusion, some tales tell of Valentine being the person who sent the first-ever Valentine’s Card from his prison cell to a young girl who he fell in love with, signing the bottom of his note with From Your Valentine.
Some people think we celebrate Valentine’s Day in February because that’s when Valentine himself died. But others maintain the holiday lands in February because that’s when an ancient pagan ceremony used to be performed, and when the Christian church started coming into power, it decided to try and “Christianize” the pagan rite by creating its own feast day at the same time.
In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day started to become a popular celebration during the 17th Century. By the middle of 18th Century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed greeting cards started replacing the handwritten notes because of improvements in printing technology – and because ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions at a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was generally frowned upon.
Americans started exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland started selling the first mass-produced valentines in the US. Here are some more fun facts about Valentine’s Day:
- The Greeting Card Association estimates 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.
- Valentine’s Day is the second largest card-sending holiday of the year (No. 1 is Christmas).
- 85% of all valentines are purchased by women.
- Valentine’s Day is celebrated in America, Canada, Mexico, England, France and Australia.
Have Your Say
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