It’s Valentines! And I have to tell you, I can’t quite figure out how we ended up with cupid, saints, and love notes. Few remember it used to be called St. Valentine’s Day. And even less people could tell you that the Catholic Church literally has three saints named Valentine or Valentinus. All three were martyrs by the way. (Yeah, now there’s happiness.)
So with such a gruesome beginning, how’d we land on chocolate candy, red hearts and flowers?
It is well known that there are quite a few legends surrounding the origin of Valentine’s Day. One legend contends that Valentine was a 3rd century, Roman priest who served during the time of Emperor Claudius II. Apparently, Claudius decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, so he outlawed marriage for young men (his crop of potential soldiers). Valentine rejected the decree and continued performing marriages in secret until he was discovered and put to death.
Another familiar story is that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
Yet another legend relays that Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting while in prison. It is said he fell in love with a young girl that might have been his jailor’s daughter. Before his death, he wrote her a letter and signed it “From your Valentine.”
Whatever the case, it wasn’t until the 1400’s that Valentines began actually making their appearance. The oldest one we know of is on display in a British Museum. Americans got into the game around 1840 and by 2008, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year. That makes Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (Christmas boasts 2.6 billion cards annually.)
Girls, I hate to break this to you, but 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. And it’s mostly a western culture thing: North America, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.
So, there you have it. If you aren’t feeling the love this season, one thing is for certain, if you can even remember half of the above information, you’ll sure feel smart!