Sweet Things

A Brief History of Valentine’s Day :

Valentine’s Day was declared a holiday around 498 A.D. by Pope Gelasius.  How St. Valentine’s Day came to be is a bit of a mystery historically but has been celebrated in February for centuries and contains traces of Christian and ancient Roman tradition.  The day is said to be named after 3 different martyred saints named Valentine or Valentinus.

One legend suggests a priest by the name of Valentine who served during the 3rd century in Rome was put to death for defying Emperor Claudius II for continuing to perform marriages for young lovers in secret after it had been outlawed.  The emperor believed single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. 

It is also suggested in stories that Valentine may have been put to death for attempting to help Christians escape torture and beatings in harsh Roman prisons. 

One legend says that Valentine sent the first ‘Valentine’ greeting himself.  While in prison, it is thought that Valentine fell in love with a young girl who may have been his jailor’s daughter.  Before his death, he allegedly wrote a letter signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression still commonly used today.  Even though the history behind the Valentine legends remain unclear, his appeal as heroic, sympathetic and as a romantic figure made him one of the most popular saints in England and France by the Middle Ages. 

While it is commonly believed that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in mid-February commemorating the death or burial of Valentine, others claim the day may have been chosen as a way to ‘Christianize’ the celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.   In ancient Rome, February was the beginning of Spring.  The Lupercalia festival began on February 15th and was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture and to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.  

During the Middle Ages, it was a common belief in England and France that February 14th was the beginning of birds mating season, adding to the belief that the middle of February should be a day for romance. 

The Oldest Known Valentine

The oldest known Valentine in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while imprisioned in the Tower of London after being captured in battle.  It is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.  Several years later, it’s believed that King HenryV hired writer John Lyndgate to compose a Valentine to Catherine of Valois. 

In Great Britain , Valentine’s Day began to be celebrated around the 17th century.   By the middle of the 18th century friends and lovers of all classes commonly exchanged small tokens or handwritten notes of affection.  Printed cards began to replace written letters by the end of the century because of advances in printing technology and cheaper postage rates.  

Americans likely began exchanging Valentine’s Day greetings in the early 1700s.   These greetings would have been hand-made.  In the 1840’s Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced Valentines in America.  She is know as the Mother of the Valentine. 

Modern Day Valentines ♥

The Greeting Card Association reports and estimated one billion Valentine cards are sent annually.  This makes Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending day behind Christmas.  Valentines’s Day is also celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.   

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Valentines Day arrives on February 14th and often sends friend and lovers scrambling to find the perfect way to say I love you, be my Valentine or just plain Happy Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day is the second largest flower-sale day in the US with roses being the predominant  flower of choice for expressions of  love and friendship.  Many will express love and appreciation through the traditional purchase of chocolates and flowers along with a Valentines’s Day card.   Others will arrange for a romantic time out on the town, purchase expensive gifts and lingere or simply give a card and a kiss.  There is no end to the ways lovers and friends will choose to show they care on this centuries old day of love and friendship.   

If you’re into breaking tradition, instead of the traditional ways of expression, here are 5 unique ways to show you care this Valentine’s Day:

1.   Hand-write a heartfelt note or letter in lieu of a store-bought card and read it out loud.

2.  Arrange to cook a special dinner together.  If you aren’t comfortable cooking , make gourmet sandwiches or a salad instead.

3.  Make a list of get-to-know-you topics and find out interesting things about your new or lasting love.  For example:

  • Where in the world would you like to live for 6 months and why?
  • If you could have dinner with 3 people living or not who would they be and why?
  • Would you prefer to be a famous writer, singer or painter and why?

4.  Make plans to spend time together on a volunteer project.

5.  Give your loved one a retro goody bag with reminders of his or her childhood.   This might require a little investigation but will surely be memorable.

Whether you will be celebrating this holiday with a lover, a friend or thinking about your love to come, keep it sweet and honest and all about giving. 

Happy Valentine’s Day !    




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