History of Valentine’s Day

Every February 14th, across the US and in other places of the world, flowers, gifts, cards and other mementos are exchanged between loved ones in the name of Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day has a history in both the Catholic and Christian Church traditions.

One story contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome.  Emperor Claudius II, however, decided to outlaw marriage for young men and women.  Single men were better soldiers than soldiers with wives.  Valentine, believing that the emperor was unjust, kept performing marriages anyway. 

When the church found out that these ceremonies were being held anyway, Emperor Claudius II ordered Valentine to be put to death.

Another possible story for the beginning of Valentine’s Day is the story of the members of the Luperci.

Luperci was a group of Roman priests that would go to a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa.  The ceremony included the skinning of a goat and a dog. 

Roman women were included in the ceremony and were described as liking the ceremony because they were allowed to rub themselves against the skins. It was believed that doing this would make them more fertile in the coming year.  This ceremony continued until the end of the 5th century when it became outlawed by the Christians because it was “un-Christian.” 

However, at the end of the 5th century, Pope Gladius declared there would be Valentine’s day.

Popularity of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s greetings continued their popularity in the middle ages but written notes/cards did not appear until the 1400’s. 

The oldest Valentine remains to be one from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife.  Early in the 18th-century people began exchanging valentines.  Around 1840 In America, Esther A. Howland (known as the “Mother of the Valentine’ Day) made elaborate cards. 

Today, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent annually.  Women now send approximately 85 percent of all valentines. 

 

Names and dates provided by http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day

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