The Real History of Valentines Day

Thought I'd share a little history on one of my favorite holidays! 

For centuries Valentines Day has been the center of love and affection, with small gifts and tokens of affection passing back and forth between lovers and loved ones. But very few people know the real history of Valentines Day. Even though we now associate the holiday with love, cupids, and fanciful dreams of romance, the truth is that February 14th holds far deeper and far older traditions than one might originally think.

St. Valentine

If one looks back into historical texts of the Catholic Church, they will find that the actual history of Valentines Day revolves around the day when a saint by the name of Valentine was martyred for his faith. Apparently, Valentine was killed when he dared to defy the Roman Emperor Claudius II, and performed secret marriages for young lovers.

Other accounts claim that St. Valentine was killed when he helped Christians escape from the clutches of Roman inquisitors who were torturing and killing prisoners. Another interesting thing to note about the history of Valentines Day is that the Catholic Church actually recognizes eleven different saints named Valentine, and three of them share February 14 as their day of recognition.

Chaucer, Love Birds, and the Middle Ages

The first time in the history of Valentines Day that love and lovers are actually associated with the day is during the Middle Ages in a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer. After the famous writer mentioned the two love birds that represented the engagement of the young king Richard II to his young bride to be, Anne of Bohemia.

After this first association of love in the history of Valentines Day, the idea quickly grew popular. By the 17th century, it had become custom for young lovers to exchange small tokens and hand written love notes with each other. By the 18th century, greeting cards began to be commercially produced just for the holiday; and by the middle of the 19th century, retailers began offering special gifts for young men to present to the ladies they were suiting.

Although the history of Valentines Day isn't necessarily as romantic as we are led to believe, the fact remains that it has become one of the most popular, and commercially profitable, holidays ever. Today, men often present their wives and girlfriends with chocolates, flowers, and cards; and the day has come to be associated with the highest number of marriage proposals than any other. One fact remains true regardless of the actual history of Valentines Day - and that is the fact that this is the one day of the year when people feel the most able to express their feelings of affection for one another.
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