Every February shelves fill with cards, candy, flowers, and stuffed animals for the special people in our lives. Every year there are discussions of February 14th being nothing more than a ploy by greeting card companies. Today we’re wondering if there is more to this day of romance, or if it’s all just a money grab for sappy couples.
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 is celebrated in remembrance of a Christian Saint. The question is which one and how do chocolates and cards come into play? The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus.
One legend says 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.
According to another legend, an imprisoned Valentine is who sent the first “valentine” card himself after he fell in love with a young girl, possibly his jailer’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.
While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial, others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February 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.
The Mother of the Valentine
In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.
Even though greeting card companies are most certainly profiting off of the holiday, it has actually been popular since before the middle ages. Do you celebrate Valentines day? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below