Origins of Valentines Day

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A Special Day’s Origins—the Valentine Story

Valentine’s Day is a mysterious holiday—we celebrate it every year, and yet nobody really knows where it came from or what the origins of Valentine’s Day are.  What we do know is that the holiday, despite thought to be a Hallmark-holiday, is based on the legends surrounding Saint Valentine.

Saint Valentine can be traced back to Christian and ancient Roman traditions, and the Catholic Church alone recognizes three different Saint Valentines.  The many myths and legend surrounding this patron saint are what gave us the holiday we today call Valentine’s Day.

Just a Tall Tale?

There are many legends about the origin of Valentine’s Day, and of Saint Valentine for that matter.  One story says that Valentine was a Roman priest during the third century, who continued to perform marriages for young men and women despite the Emperor Claudius’ forbiddance of the practice.  Claudius then supposedly ordered Valentine to be put to death.

This story has another ending.  Instead of being put to death, some legends argue that Valentine, in fact, went to prison, where he created the first valentine.  He is said to have fallen in love with a young girl who visited him, and to have written her a letter before his death.  He signed the letter “from your Valentine,” coining the phrase as it is used today. 

Whichever legend may be true, if any of them are at all; there are certain elements of the stories that remain true.  The origins of Saint Valentine always dictate that the man was a martyr, and he is always said to be a brave and courageous hero.

Popular Practice

Though the origins of Valentine’s Day remain unclear, more is known about when Valentine’s Day first became a popular holiday.  It was not until the seventeenth century that Valentine’s Day became a popularly celebrated holiday in Great Britain.  At first, crude letters were written to carry on the tradition of the holiday, which made it very similar to Valentine’s Day’s supposed origins.  Soon, printed cards were used instead.
In the 1700’s, America first began to celebrate the holiday.  The first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were produced in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland.

A Modern World

The origins of Valentine’s Day have survived over many years, and the holiday is still celebrated by the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Australia, and France.  Though some traditions have changed, Valentine’s Day is still true to its origins in spirit.

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