Valentines Day History
The legends behind Valentines Day history make it hard to discover the true facts about the holiday. But, one thing that each legend has in common is that it's steeped in romance. Whichever legend you choose to believe, February 14th is a special day rich in history.
The first recorded mention of Valentines Day was by Geoffrey Chaucer in the book, The Parliament of Fowles (around 1380).
Some say Chaucer chose Saint Valentine as a patron for the marriage of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia, for which he wrote: "For this was on Seynt Valentynes day, Whan every foul cometh theere to chese his make [mate].
Additionally, it is proposed that February 14 was acknowledged in medival times as the date when birds sought their mates.
But the origins of Valentines Day history are much older than this.
While St. Valentines Day is not recognized today as a religious holiday, its origins may be derived from the Roman Catholic church. Legend has it that sometime between around 200 and 270 AD, when the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, instituted the law to ensure that young men would think only of the battlefield and not of wives waiting at home.
A Catholic priest, known as St. Valentine, disobeyed a law by marrying young men. As such, he was imprisoned.
This St. Valentine was said to be executed on February 14, around the year 270.
There was a second Catholic saint named Valentine (there were three Christian martyrs named Valentine). The story behind this saint is that he was imprisoned for refusing to worship false Roman gods.
According to the legend, Valentine was loved by children. He made friends with his jailer's daughter and wrote her the first recognized "Valentines" note. It was signed, "from your Valentine". In addition, the children who loved him tossed notes through the bars of the jail where Valentine was imprisoned. Thus Valentines (love notes) were born. According to some accounts, this Valentine is the same as the one who married young prospective soldiers.
Yet another legend traces Valentines Day history to the ancient Roman holiday called Lupercalia. Lupercalia has as its root from the word "lupus" which means wolf.
Roman priests called "luperci" sacrificed two lambs and a dog at the Lupercal, a cave where the mythic founder of Rome, Romulus and his twin Remus, were believed to have been raised by a she-wolf.
Lupercus is the pastoral god sometimes identified with Faunus, the god of wild nature and fertility, identified later with the Greek "Pan."
This ritual brought fertility to the women while frightening away the wolves.
This custom led to pairing a town's maidens and bachelors in a random drawing.
In 498, Pope Gelasius, who reined from 492, commemorated St. Valentine when he changed the pagan Lupercalia festival into the "Feast of the Purification". He deemed the lottery system of pairing mates un-Christian and outlawed the practice.
February 14th was set aside to honor the saint. In 1969, the holiday was removed from the Catholic Calendar of Saints because of the lack of historical facts surrounding St. Valentine.
The tradition that was born in Europe is now celebrated in many other countries around the world: the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, France, China, Japan, Australia and Taiwan.
Valentines Day history has its roots in these legends. They have flourished ever since with romantic love as the central theme of Valentines celebrations.
Historically, Valentines is most celebrated by the exchange of love notes. Valentines notes and cards appeared by the 1400s. By the 1500s, courtly love was in fashion and Valentines cards contained love poetry.
The first valentine on record was sent in 1415 and is on display in the British Library. It was sent by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Valentines Day cards were commercially produced during the 1840s by an artist named Ester Howland. She used an assembly line to create elaborate cards with images of winged children known as cherubs. The Victorian style card was forged and is still very popular today.
Hallmark greeting card company has played a significant role in the modern-day Valentines Day history. They began producing Valentine greetings in 1916. They sell over 140 million each year.
Today, Valentines Day is one of the most celebrated holidays in the Western world.
Old or new, Valentines Day Traditions inspire creative Valentines ideas. So, discover the traditions that you want to keep alive in your own romance.
Return from Valentines Day History to Creative Valentine Ideas.