The Legend of St. Valentine

latest-happy-valentines-day-2013-

We all know Valentine’s Day. Flowers, Candy, Cards, Gifts of Love and Dinners out.

But do you know the history of the holiday?

I thought I would share the history of why we celebrate Valentine’s Day!

The Legend of St. Valentine

St Valentine

St Valentine

The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that 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 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.

st-valentine-1-observing-a-couple

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

6a00d8341c767353ef0163015feb23970d-800wi

Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Origins of Valentine’s Day: A Pagan Festival in February

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

Valentine’s Day: A Day of Romance

Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 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 is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library 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.

Typical Valentine’s Day Greetings

vintage-victorian-valentine-card-cherub-messenger-pulling-cart-with-roses

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 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.

images

best_valentines_day_greeting_cards_victorian_era-p137814018627464177bfjn0_400

victorian_cupid_roses_valentines_day_card-p137912636159502011envwi_400

Esther A. Howland"Mother of the Valentines"

Esther A. Howland
“Mother of the Valentine”

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

(This article is from History website – http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day)

vintage_victorian_valentines_day_cupids_heart_tree_postcard-re47b91b4cc184bdb86323d3f3ad2197c_vgbaq_8byvr_512

Facebook Link

Advertisements

55 thoughts on “The Legend of St. Valentine

  1. Fascinating, I knew of the Lupercalia but not its connection to Valentine’s. Brilliant post, thank you!

  2. terry1954 says:

    I have always loved the vintage cards from Valentine’s Day. Of course I love anything vintage and antique. today i was lucky enough to pick up an antique tall square table with nice decorative backdrop. I fell in love with the thick oak boards. It has one drawer with a nice pull and very tall legs. it is oak but has an old varnish of darker oak on it. I will most likely not refinish it

  3. Janet Rörschåch says:

    Nicely researched. Thank you!

  4. John says:

    Nice work, thank you for the history lesson. 😉

  5. Elephant says:

    Exactly what I like to read – something specific – history – very well done! Thank you for taking the time to teach us all about a holiday we all have odd notions about.
    Elephant

  6. Debbie says:

    That was a great read. Thanks! I’ll pass it along.

  7. vanbraman says:

    Thanks for the nice history behind Valentine’s Day.

  8. shellakers says:

    Beautiful post! Being Catholic, I’ve heard most of this. History is always SO interesting to me 🙂

  9. gardeniahung says:

    Your Valentine’s recollection brings more meaning to the celebration on February 14th. Excellent historical research!

  10. Lovely post. I enjoyed the lesser known facts and the photos from times gone by.

  11. museconfuse says:

    wow! Thanks for doing the research 😀

  12. Really enjoyed those vintage Valentines! Thank you!

  13. Thanks for sharing this. It’s funny how very few people (myself included) actually know the real history behind this day. Now I know 🙂

  14. I have so much enjoyed following your progress this past year or so and would like to nominate your blog for the Beautiful Blogger Award. Would you mind?

    • Thank you so much! I have to say we get these awards quite often. Believe us, we are really honored that we are thought of so often! But if we did each one of them, there would be only those on the blog. But thank you so much! We really appreciate it!

  15. Amy says:

    Beautiful post! Thank you so much for taking time to write the history! Very fascinating.

  16. gooseyanne says:

    I did enjoy reading that and the lovely pictures too – thank you so much for posting it.

  17. Candace says:

    Interesting. I love those vintage Valentine cards.

  18. lyndaanning says:

    very interesting information. thankyou x

  19. Fascinating! I had no idea. Thank you for the Valentine’s Day History. I hope that you had a great one!

  20. […] The Legend of St. Valentine (virginiaplantation.wordpress.com) […]

  21. sarahlouisek says:

    There was a display at the Opera House in Woodstock, Illinois, over Groundhog Day this year. It said Valentine’s Day originated from what you list as your first and second legends. In other words, it all happened to the same guy named Valentine.

  22. Melina says:

    I love your post! Much more informative than any of the sites I searched for at Valentine’s Day… thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s