Sunday, February 12, 2006

The History of Valentine's Day

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten

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 France.

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.

Source: The History Channel


  1. lovely tale, another rose for u?

    Saint Valentine or Saint Valentinus refers to one of at least three martyred saints of ancient Rome. The feast of Saint Valentine was formerly celebrated on February 14 by the Roman Catholic Church until the revised calendar 1969.

    According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the saint whose feast was celebrated on the day now known as St. Valentine's Day was possibly one of the three martyred men who lived in the late 3rd century during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (died 270):

    a priest in Rome
    a bishop of Interamna (modern Terni)
    a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.
    It's believed that the priest and the bishop Valentinus are each buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome, at different lengths from the city. In the 12th century, the Roman city gate known in ancient times as the Porta Flaminia (now known as the Porta del Popolo) was known as the Gate of St. Valentine.

  2. robin is takin the romance out of valentine with that loooong n zzzZZZZ comment!
    "lu kong si mik?"

    Happy Valentine Day Happysurfer!

  3. Robin, thanks for the additional information. Don't mind FH2o, I appreciate it.

    FH2o, be nice, especially when you're a guest here. This is my blog, in case you think you're on a kayak. haha....

    Happy Valentine's Day. Bringing Madam out for a paddle on Valentine's Day? Just the two of you.

  4. Have a sweet valentine's day happy.

  5. Valentine's Day is also celebrated here in Japan, but with an interesting (and totally commercial) twist:

    On Valentine's Day (February 14th), girls are supposed to give presents, preferably chocolate, to boys. Then, one month later, on March 14th (known as "White Day"), the men are supposed to reciprocate by giving presents (preferably something of white lace, such as underwear) to the girls. Of course, that gives department stores, restaurants, and hotels not just one, but two romantic celebrations to encourage people to spend money.

    It also means I get chocolate! :-)

  6. oops.. MM does it mean u have to give lacy underwear one month later???

    wow.. how to buy?

  7. Anonymous3:10 PM

    MM: You have to buy somthing back more expensive present to your wife than chocolates she got on 14 March.

  8. Well, this year, for the first time ever, I didn't get any Valentine's Day chocolate from any of my students.

    Oh, well...less money to spend for White Day. (fume...fume...fume...)

  9. Hello Agus, thank you. I'm sorry I wasn't able to get back to blogging sooner. Hope your Valentine's Day was sweet and memorable.

    Hi MM, no kidding! reciprocate by giving presents (preferably something of white lace, such as underwear). Hmmm......

    Should I sympathise with you about not receiving any chocolate this year? The 'half-full glass' perspective (positive) is preferred, I'm sure. Yeah, you saved some money.

    (fume...fume...fume...) - ahhhhh... another ego bites the dust. haha.....

    MM, thanks for sharing.

    Robin, go figure.

    Anonymous, you may be right but I think it's not the dollar value that counts but the thought. Cliched but true.