The history of St. Valentine's Day begins in Rome, in 270 AD.
Valentine was one of the earlier Christian saints. He
was a priest in ancient Rome and was martyred for his
faith in 270 AD. He incurred the wrath of the Emperor
Claudius by helping young lovers to marry against his
wishes and ended up being beheaded for his troubles.
Before his execution, Valentine had fallen in love with
his jailer's daughter and signed his final note to her
"From Your Valentine", a phrase that has lasted through
Mid February was
traditionally the time of Lupercalia, a pagan festival
to the god of fertility and a celebration of sensual
pleasure, a time to meet and court a prospective mate.
In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius outlawed the pagan festival but
had the sense to replace it with a a similar
celebration, although one deemed morally suitable. He
needed a "lovers" saint to replace the pagan deity
Lupercus and so the martyred Bishop Valentine was chosen
as the patron saint of the new Christian festival.
Things didn't turn out quite as the Pope hoped. The
pagan festival did indeed die out, but he was
disappointed in his wish that people would emulate the
lives of the saints. Instead they latched onto the more
romantic aspects of Saint Valentine's religious life.
While not immediately as popular as the more decadent
pagan festival, the festival celebrating true love
continued and became known as Valentine's Day.
Valentine is one of the more popular saints in the
calendar and everyone knows when Valentine's Day is -
but even so, officially his feast was dropped from the
liturgical calendar in 1969.
According to legend, a priest by the name of
Valentine was ordered to die by Claudius II, simply
for marrying Roman soldiers. Claudius had
ordered the soldiers not to marry. Apparently he never heard the saying
"make love, not war". Valentine was put to death on February 14th, the eve of the festival. He
was then canonized and in honor and celebration of Valentine. - St.
Mid February was traditionally the time of
Lupercalia, a pagan festival to the god of fertility
and a celebration of sensual pleasure, a time to
meet and court a prospective mate. In 496 AD, Pope
Gelasius outlawed the pagan festival but had the
sense to replace it with a a similar celebration,
although one deemed morally suitable. He needed a
"lovers" saint to replace the pagan deity Lupercus
and so the martyred Bishop Valentine was chosen as
the patron saint of the new Christian festival.
According to one legend, Valentine
actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison,
it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may
have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his
confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter,
which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in
use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the
stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and,
most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle
Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and
In the United States, Miss Esther Howland is given credit for sending
the first valentine cards. Commercial valentines were introduced in the
1800's and now the date is very commercialized. The town of Loveland,
Colorado, does a large post office business around February 14. The
spirit of good continues as valentines are sent out with sentimental
verses and children exchange valentine cards at school.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion
valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second
largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion
cards are sent for Christmas.) Approximately 85 percent of all
valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States,
Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom,
France, and Australia.
Updated 4th February...