Published June 13, 2007
The history of Valentine’s Day and where Valentine Day traditions stem from is an enigma that has required some conjecture and speculation on the part of historians. So where did this romantic holiday where people declare their love for one another likely originate? The Catholic Church acknowledges the existence of up to 11 Saints named Valentine (such as Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni). And there are numerous Christian martyrs who were also named Valentine. The evolving legend stipulates that one of these Saint Valentines from the medieval ages was persecuted and jailed for his Christian beliefs or was a priest that was jailed for performing marriages that did not please the Roman Emperor. Before being executed, one of these St. Valentines wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter whom he supposedly loved, healed or befriended and signed it ‘From your Valentine’. Others have postulated, that Valentine traditions may be related to the Greco-Roman fertility and love festivals that they held in February. Of course, how these legends tie into the modern Valentine’s Day holiday is not clear.
Undisputed is the fact that during the 1840’s, the modern era of Valentine’s Day traditions began. It was during that decade that the first mass produced Valentine Day cards were first produced and distributed. The practice of giving gifts to your significant other on this holiday started in the late twentieth century when people starting exchanging Valentine chocolates and flowers in addition to the standard greeting card. Finally when the jewelry industry started promoting for Valentine’s Day in the 1980’s, diamonds took off to become one of the best-sellers during the Valentine holiday.