Valentine’s Day. A holiday filled with love, flowers and chocolate. But before the chocolate, greeting cards and flowers, it was a church sanctioned holiday starting around 498 A.D. Filled with a rich and interesting history, Valentine’s Day isn’t just another made up holiday for greeting card companies.
Who Was Saint Valentine?
Because of its long history, it is hard to say who the Saint Valentine was—there were actually many early Christian martyrs named Valentine (or Valentinus). According to Wikipedia, the most popular of these Valentines was, “associated with [being] imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire; during his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius. Legend states that before his execution he wrote “from your Valentine” as a farewell to her.” We still use this saying to sign our cards today.
Enter the High Middle Ages
It wasn’t until the middle ages, that Valentine’s day was associated with love. We can thank the poet/author Geoffrey Chaucer for this. In his Parlement of Foules (published in 1382) he wrote: “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” A handful of other poets in this same time frame also made romantic associations with the holiday during this time.
Fast Forward to the 1700’s
It wasn’t until 1797 that we would see anything that resembles a modern day Valentine postcard. Starting in England, a publisher created The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which were cards written for those who couldn’t express their love as eloquently as they hoped. These Valentines became so popular in England that by the early 19th century they were created in factories to keep up with the demand.
Jump to Modern Day
According to the Greeting Card Association, Americans send 145 million cards each year (this number doesn’t include Valentine’s given at schools). Christmas is the only holiday where more cards are sent. This is a far cry from the beginning of Valentine’s Day. The 20th century is also when giving gifts became the norm for Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that diamonds where associated with the holiday.
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? How do you show love to the special people in your life? Let us know in the comments below.