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History of Valentine Day

Valentine’s Day is coming and has you dream to get a fantastic gift box from your lover? Every February 14, across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from?

Today Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, mostly in the west,, although it remains a working day in all of them. In the 5th or 6th century, a work called Passio Marii et Marthae invented a story of martyrdom for Saint Valentine of Rome, with apparently no basis on any historical fact. It claims that St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius2 in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman Paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. A later Passio repeated the legend, adding the invention that Pope Julius1 built a church over his sepulcre (it’s a confusion with a 4th century tribune called Valentino who donated land to build a church at a time when Julius was a Pope).The legend was picked up as fact by later martyrologies, starting by Bede’s martyrology in the 8th century. It was repeated in the 13th century, in Legenda Aurea. The book expounded briefly the Early Medieval acta of several Saint Valentines, and this legend was assigned to the Valentine under 14 February.

Since Legenda Aurea still provided no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail.

There is an additional modern embellishment to The Golden Legend, provided by American Greetings to History, and widely repeated despite having no historical basis whatsoever. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first “valentine” card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer, who was no longer blind, signing as “From your Valentine.”

The rise of Internet popularity at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions. Millions of people use modern means of creating and sending Valentine’s Day sending gifts such as jewelry case or a sleeping pillow and so on every year. An estimated 15 million e-valentines were sent in 2010. Valentine’s Day is considered by some to be a Hallmark Holiday due to its commercialization.