The History of Valentine’s Day

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When February 14th came around, gifts, candies, and flowers were exchanged between loved ones. You might ask yourself, how did Valentine’s Day become the day for celebrating love?

 

One legend says when Emperor Claudius II of Rome decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families; he banned marriage for young men. This would then allow Rome to have a better, more focused military. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the verdict, disobeyed Claudius and continued to execute marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were exposed, Claudius demanded that Valentine be sentenced to death.

 

According to a different legend, an imprisoned Valentine sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly the jailer’s daughter–who visited him during his captivity. Before his death, it is said that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still used today.

 

Pope Gelasius of Rome declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day during his term. However, it was not until much later that the day became ultimately linked with love. During the Middle Ages, it was a common belief that in France and England, February 14 was the beginning of the birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

 

Perhaps the symbol of Valentine’s Day is not Saint Valentine himself but rather Cupid. According to Greek mythology, Eros, also known as Cupid, is the god of desire and love and is said to be the son of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Legend has it that Cupid carried two arrows: gold for love and lead for hate. Over the years, Cupid has become a mascot for how unpredictable love is. In fact, at times, Cupid is pictured blindfolded representing the idea that love is blind.

 

In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would wear this name pinned onto their sleeves for one week for everyone to see. This was the origin of the expression “wear your heart on your sleeve.”

 

Approximately one billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.

 

Now that Valentine’s Day is over, hopefully you can say you had a great holiday and you know a little history about the holiday of love!