Valentine's Day Rose

How the polarizing Valentine’s Day holiday celebrating love came to be.

Did you know that over 150 million Valentine's Day inspired greeting cards are exchanged globally between loved ones every year? This ranks Valentine's Day as the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.

Did you also know that over $13.1 billion worth of gifts are purchased on Valentine's Day each year in the US alone?

These, coupled with numerous others too many to be listed, are down-right amazing Valentine’s Day facts that will leave anyone with that “wow” feeling.

What else we find amazing about this very day that many have marked on their calendars to send love notes and expensive boxes of chocolates, roses and jewelries to loved ones, is that little or nothing (more of the latter, actually) about the origin and history about this very “valentiney” day is known by the very people that practice it year in year out.

No, Valentine’s Day did not come to be by two-thirds of the United Nations congress unanimously voting for a special day to be set aside globally for everyone to share love. There is no such decree, and even if there was, how did they arrive on the 14th day of February as the date?

Valentine’s Day is actually a “well-documented historical phenomenon” that has its roots twined in centuries worth of Christian liturgy, pagan tradition, myth, and an occasional beheading.

Just as it is with every other popular myth, the legend of Valentine’s Day has so many different and opposing versions. Apparently, due to a couple of misinterpretations and loss of core details as the story was transmitted down or just difference in cultural and religious inclinations, we are left with different narratives about how the red-color-themed day came to be.

However, the most popularly held and believed version of Valentine’s Day history held within historian circles is that of a temple priest not so surprisingly named Valentine, who was executed in 270 A.D. by a Roman Emperor.

The story has it that a war-minded Emperor Claudius II enacted a decree that marriage among young men should be banished, after opinionating that married men who had families to look after were not as effective at the warfront

In an outright defiance of the Emperor’s  orders, Valentine, who was later canonized a Saint by the Catholic Church, continued to discreetly solemnize the union of soldiers on the Roman battlefield, an act which got him incarcerated and later killed on the orders of Claudius.

Accordingly to accounts from the story, the night to his execution, St. Valentine handed the daughter of his captivator, who he had miraculously healed of blindness, a hand-written card with the wording “– you guessed it – ‘From Your Valentine.’”

February 14 was chosen by the Vatican as a feast day to honor St. Valentine’s life and sacrifice for love after his canonization, hence the significance of February 14 as Valentine’s Day globally.

Also, further support for the Feb 14 date can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Within it, there are presently at least three early Christian saints named Valentine — each of whom were martyred on February 14.

Valentine’s Day has since metamorphosed from what it was back then to what we have it as in present day.

It is presently more centered on romantic love, and we have English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, to thank for that. Chaucer's poem, Parliament of Foules, was the first ever to link the tradition of courtly love with St. Valentine's Day.

The first Valentine’s Day card was believed to be sold in 1840 by Esther Howland, also known as The Mother of the Valentine, and today, according to StyleCaster, it is estimated that over 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.

However you go about celebrating your Valentine’s Day today, be it sending across roses and a jewelry set, or just seeing a blockbuster movie with that special someone, at least you are now aware of one thing: Valentine’s Day is founded on the basis of a sacrifice of love.


Follow the Conversation on Twitter