History of Valentines Day

At Gift Basket Village we thought we should offer a bit of Valentines Day history and even some Valentines Day poems to help you celebrate the romantic holiday. What follows is just one version of the history of Valentines Day.  Don't forget to check out our collection of Valentines Day poems.

St. Valentine's Day

Every February, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. The history of Valentine's Day and its patron saint is shrouded in mystery, but we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, is a mix of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. February 14th was originally the Roman feast of Lupercalia, but was Christianized in memory of the martyr St. Valentine who died in 270 A.D. In the Middle Ages, Valentine became associated with the union of lovers under conditions of duress. Today the holiday is celebrated with the exchange of romantic or comic messages called "valentines."

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different Saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. In one legend Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young, single men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured. While Valentine was in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl that visited him during his confinement. It is thought that she may have been his jailor's daughter. Before his death he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still used today. By the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, can be viewed today at the British Museum in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. Valentine's Day is celebrated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

Cupid - Eros

In Greek mythology, Eros was the god of love in all its manifestations. According to some legends, he was one of the oldest of the gods, born from Chaos but personifying harmony. In most stories he was the son of Aphrodite and Ares and was represented as a winged youth armed with bow and arrows. In Roman myth, under the name Cupid or Amor, he was the naked infant son and companion of Venus.

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