Valentine’s Day: History, & Traditions

Each February, in places around the world, friends exchange flowers, gifts, and candy in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

The name of St. Valentine is known across the globe as a patron saint. Most of us however, do not know the true origin of St. Valentine and how this special day came to be.

What we do know is that February is the month of romance. As we know it today, St. Valentine’s Day contains elements of both ancient Roman and Christian traditions.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three martyred saints names Valentine or

One of the common legends states that Valentine was a priest that served in third century Rome. At the time, Emperor Claudius II declared that single males made superior soldiers than did those who had wives and children and he outlawed marriage for all young men in order to optimize his potential army of soldiers.

Valentine immediately realized the injustice in this declaration and continued to perform marriages in secret ceremonies, which was in direct defiance of Emperor Claudius II.

Upon learning of Valentine’s actions, the Emperor immediately had him put to death.

There are additional stories surrounding Valentine that suggest he was killed for attempting to assist Christians in escaping Roman prisons where they were often tortured and beaten. If one particular legend holds true, Valentine himself sent the first ever “valentine” greeting.

It is believed that Valentine fell in love with a jailer’s daughter while in prison. The girl had visited Valentine in jail, during which time Valentine fell deeply in love with her. It is thought that before his death, Valentine sent her a letter that he signed “From Your Valentine”.

By the time of Valentine’s death and subsequent sainthood, he was one of the most popular legends in England and France during the Middle Ages.

The early pastors of Roman Christian churches used St. Valentine’s Day as the day young men chose maidens from the congregation as potential brides.

Since that time there have been many traditions that have become an important part of Valentine’s Day. Cards, gifts, and the promise of
eternal love are the most common way that we express our feelings on this very special day each year.

In the United States, the first commercially printed Valentine’s Day cards began appearing in the early 1800s. Since that time, Valentine’s Day has become a highly profitable business in which millions of dollars are spent each year.

While we enjoy and anticipate Valentine’s Day and the gifts we will give and receive, it is important to remember that this very special day originated with no gifts whatsoever, but rather an promise of eternal love and happiness that cost nothing at all.

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