The History of Valentine’s Day

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An estimated 1 billion valentines are sent every year. Despite the commercialization of the holiday, Valentine’s Day cards most likely have their origins in Third Century Rome! And each year we celebrate and show love and affection on February 14, but do you know why?

The most romantic theory about the history of the holiday features the young priest Valentine, who continued to marry star-crossed lovers even after the Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men. When Valentine’s rebellion was finally discovered, he was arrested and thrown into prison. Legend has it that he fell in love with a young woman – possibly his jailer’s daughter – while there. This woman would visit him and he would send her love letters signed “from your Valentine.” He was later condemned to death, but their love story lived on.

By the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day had become linked to love and romance. The British Library in London owns the oldest known Valentine, a letter written by Charles, the Duke of Orleans, in 1415 to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Later on, Colonial Americans starting sending Valentines when Ester Howland, the “mother of Valentine,” began mass-producing Valentine’s Day cards in the United States in the 19th century.

There you have it. The history of what has come to be known as the day of love, Valentine’s Day.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography

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