A Little Valentine’s Day History

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Valentine’s Day is a bit of a mystery as there are several supposed ideas about its origin but no solid facts. The Catholic Church has identified three different saints named Valentine that were martyred. One that I found interesting is a legend of a priest named Valentine who served when Claudius II was emperor of Rome in the third century. Claudius felt that single men were better suited for battle than those who were married and had families, so he outlawed marriage! Valentine could not abide by this unjust law and continued to perform marriages in secret. He was discovered and Claudius put him to death.

The phrase,”from your Valentine”, may have originated from a Roman prison. This legend tells of an imprisoned Valentine who was sentenced to death for helping Christians escape the torturous beatings applied by the Romans while in jail. He allegedly fell in love with his jailor’s daughter who would visit him while in prison. Before his death, he wrote her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine”.

During the Middle Ages, February 14th was believed to be the day that bird’s began their mating season which fostered the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance. Regardless of the origin of any of these tales, each one is cloaked in love, sympathy, and/or romance.

In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. She is known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” and would hand make elaborate creations with ribbon, lace, and other interesting scraps. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, Christmas being the first. I wonder if that includes the now popular e-cards? In my opinion, receiving a tangible valentine, handwritten by the giver, whether handmade or purchased, is a far superior way to convey one’s sentiments than any e-card! Perhaps this year a little old fashioned Esther A. Howland type greeting would be the perfect way to say, “Be My Valentine“!

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