We all know Valentine’s Day, but where did this tradition come from?
Valentine’s Day, also knows as Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated every year on February 14th.
The tradition originated as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus.
These days Valentine’s Day is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions around the world.
There are numerous stories of martyrdom associated with various Valentines connected to the date of February 14, including a written account of the imprisonment of Saint Valentine of Rome for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire.
According to these legends, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his judge, and he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before his execution.
Pope Gelasius I established the Feast of Saint Valentine in AD 496 to be celebrated on February 14 in honour of the Christian martyr, Saint Valentine of Rome, who died on that date in AD 269.
The day first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer when in the 14th century, the tradition of courtly love flourished.
In England in the 18th-century, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”).
Today Valentine’s Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid.
Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine’s Malady).
Although Saint Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday in any country, it is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion and in the Lutheran Church.
It is also celebrated in many parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church on July 6 and July 30, the former date in honor of Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (in modern times known as Terni).