Valentine's Day Facts - History
The history of Valentine's Day is a mystery. However, we do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance. Today, Valentine's Day contains both Roman and Christian traditions.
In Great Britain, Valentine's Day become popularized in the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth, it was common for young lovers and friends to exchange small tokens or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printing technology helped replace many handwritten letters.
Americans began exchanging greetings during the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentine's in America.
According to the Greeting Card Association, more than one billion Valentine's Day cards are sent each year, making it second only to Christmas (2.6 billion) for the most card-sending holiday of the year.
Today, 85 percent of all valentine's are purchased by women and the day is celebrated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and becoming ever more popular around the rest of the world.
Who was St. Valentine?
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three saints with the name Valentine or Valentinus, all of which were martyred.
One legend suggests that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. As Claudius II believed single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. In turn, Valentine defied the emperor and continued performing marriages for young lovers in private. When his actions were discovered, Claudius was sentenced to death.
Other stories contend that Valentine may have been killed for helping Christians escape the harsh Roman prisons where they were tortured.
Another legend, suggests Valentine sent the very first 'valentine' greeting. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with a young girl, possibly the jailor's daughter, who visited him regularly during his confinement. Before his death, he wrote her a letter and signed 'From your Valentine.'
Although these stories are legends, it is commonly believed Valentine was a sympathetic, heroic and romantic figure. By no surprise, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Why is Valentine's Day in February?
Some theories suggest Valentine's Day is the anniversary of Saint Valentine's death or burial which most researches agree happened around 270 A.D. -- others believe the fourteenth of February was chosen to Christianize the celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival during the middle of February.
In 498 A.D. Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St. Valentine's Day. Later, English and French believed February 14th was the day mating amongst birds began. This added to the idea of Valentine's Day becoming a moment of romance.
What is the oldest known Valentine still in existence today?
The oldest known Valentine is one by Charles, Duke of Orleans whom which he wrote to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The poem, written in 1415, is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.
Several years later, it is believed King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to comprise a valentine for Catherine of Valois.