In spirit of Valentine’s day this Sunday, I wanted to revisit the history of what many refer to as “Hallmark’s Holiday.”
According to History.com, St. Valentine’s Day contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. One of the most widely believed stories contends:
…that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Another popular legend believes:
…Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor’s daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It’s no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Our more modern perceptions of Valentine’s Day actually started in Great Britain around the seventeenth century. Moving into the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers spanning all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes (History.com). When the steam powered printing press was introduced, the cost of printing decreased significantly and printed cards eventually came to replace hand written notes.
Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion Valentine’s day cards are sent each year. Not surprisingly, 85% of all Valentine’s are purchased by women (History.com).
So I assure you, that Valentine’s day was not the brainchild of the Hallmark company. If you would like to avoid the expensive cards, chocolate, and flowers, think about writing your Valentine a handwritten note. You don’t need to spend a significant amount of money in order to celebrate the people you love. Plus, how often do you find a card that actually says what you want it to say anyway?
I hope that everyone has a fantastic Valentine’s Day, and that you get the chance to tell your friends and family how much they mean to you. What kind of plans have you made to celebrate the holiday?