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Holiday Insight: Valentine's Day

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General Information

It's always wonderful to take time to show ones love to another and Valentine's Day provides a perfect reason to reach out to loved ones through gifts, greeting cards, ecards, flowers, candy, and much more. Everyone's in love with love. It makes us feel happy...most of the time. Poets have been writing about love for centuries, whether it be the love between best friends, passionate love, or even unrequited love. Over the centuries, authors have woven many tales of love that would be appropriate for this favorite February holiday, originally known as St. Valentine's Day but often shortened in modern times.

Even when we're young, we love Valentine's Day. Who hasn't decorated a red paper heart to give to their teacher, best friend, or secret crush? How many high school students have secretly slipped a Valentine greeting card into the locker of the one they adore? And with today's state-of-the-art technology, how many of us have sent Valentine e-cards? After all, everyone deserves to know they're loved!

History of Valentine's Day

Many may think that Valentine's Day was an invention of the greeting card companies. After all, according to the Greeting Card Association, more than 1 billion Valentine cards are sent each year and that doesn't count the millions of e-card Valentines that float through cyber-space. Valentine's Day, however, came about long before the printing press and several legends surround the holiday. No one really knows which are the most accurate.

The most widely known story is of Valentine, a priest in third century Rome, who performed marriages in secret, despite the rulings of the Emperor Claudius II who had banned marriages in order to increase the ranks of his military. The emperor believed that men were not joining his army because they were reluctant to leave their wives and children. Valentine's secret ceremonies were discovered and, consequently, he was jailed. It is said that he fell in love with the jailor's daughter and, before his death, wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine," a phrase still used on greeting cards to this day.

Others believe that the origins of the holiday stem from the pagan feast of Lupercalia, when a town's bachelors would draw names of eligible town maidens and pair up with them for the coming year. Many pairings resulted in marriage. This feast took place in mid February.

It's also possible that the date of Valentine's Day was chosen to commemorate St. Valentine's death in the middle of February in the year 270 AD. Whichever story may be correct, it is known for a fact that Valentine's Day was declared an official holiday by Pope Gelasius around 500 AD.

The history of sending handmade cards and other sentimental notes achieved great popularity by the mid-eighteenth century in Great Britain and later in the 1700s, printed cards became available. The trend followed suit in the U.S., where the first mass-produced Valentine's Day greeting cards became available in 1840. The oldest Valentine in existence was written in 1415 and is housed at the British Library in London. It was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife and was penned while he was a prisoner in the tower of London.

Date of Celebration

Valentine's Day is commemorated worldwide on February 14th.

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