Valentine’s Day history and legends

The love-filled occasion is celebrated across the world in the memory of Saint Valentine. But who exactly is this mysterious man? We are sure you would be curious to know as why we celebrate this day. We take this opportunity to dig into the history of Valentine’s Day and throw light on the patron saint who is associated with the day.

The Valentine’s Day, as we perceive and celebrate it today, carries vestiges of ancient Roman as well as Christian tradition. According to a legend, Valentine was a priest who happened to serve in Rome some time during the third century. When Emperor Claudius II theorized that single men made better warriors than the family men, he outlawed marriage for youths – his crop of would-be soldiers.

Valentine fought the unjust invalidity of the decree. Defying the Emperor, he secretly performed marriage rituals for young lovers. When the actions were discovered, Claudius instantly ordered the death penalty. Some other legends hint that Valentine was killed for trying to help Christians escape from Roman prisons.

According to another story, Valentine sent the first ever ‘valentine’ greeting. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with a young woman, probably the jailor’s daughter. He is said to have penned a letter to her, and signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression in use till date.

The different legends about Valentine’s Day only emphasize his appeal as a heroic and romantic figure. Let’s know about some more curious facts about Valentine’s Day:

  • Today, at least three different saints named Valentinus or Valentine are recognized by the Catholic Church. Incidentally, all of them were martyred.
  • Some think that the day is celebrated to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s burial or death that probably occurred around 270 A.D. Others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine’s feast day in February to ‘christianize’ the pagan Lupercalia festive celebrations.
  • In the UK, the day began to be celebrated on mass-scale around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th century, it became common for lovers and friends in all social strata to exchange tokens of affection or handwritten notes.
  • Americans probably started exchange of hand-made valentines in the beginning of the 18th century. Esther A. Howland. Howland created the first commercial Valentine’s Day greeting card in the 1840s in the US.


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