So, regardless of whether you go googly-eyed over Valentine’s Day or not, keep reading to discover the real story behind this holiday.
The real story of Valentine’s Day
There are several myths which claim to tell the story of how Valentine’s Day came to be – many of which maintain that this holiday began as a religious one. In fact, the Catholic Church recognises at least three saints with the name Valentine or Valentinus, all of which were martyred and quite literally died for love.
The most popular Saint Valentine was a Roman priest serving under Emperor Claudius during the third century. Due to his belief that single men made better soldiers than those who were married with families, the emperor created a law that made it illegal for young men to wed. Realising the unfairness of this, Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages in secret.
When is Valentine’s Day celebrated and why?
Upon discovering what Valentine was up to, the emperor had him put in jail, sentencing him to death. While imprisoned, the saint fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, and when taken to be killed on February 14th, he penned a love letter to her signed “from your Valentine” – an expression that is still used today.
After his death, the priest was canonised by the Vatican and subsequently, February 14th was declared Valentine’s feast day – a day designated by the church to honour a saint’s life.
Some people believe that Valentine’s Day stems from something less tragic than a martyred saint. For example, in England and France, February 14th is thought to be the beginning of mating season for birds, which is symbolic of love, fertility and the promise of spring.
Notes of affection
Others claim that Valentine’s Day began to rise in popularity around the 17th century, when it was common for friends to exchange gifts and notes of affection. It’s believed the first Valentine’s card was sold in 1840 by artist and businesswoman Esther Howland. Upon receiving her own Valentine at age 19, Howland was determined to make a better card herself, and it’s from there that her Valentine’s card business took off. Today, an estimated one billion cards are sent each year.