The History of Valentine's Day

L'amore! Love is on the menu this week and I thought I'd share a bit about Valentine's Day! 

Once upon a time there was a man named St. Valentine . . .  actually, there are as many as 3 men who were named St. Valentinus.  A popular account of Saint Valentine of Rome states he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, he healed the daughter of his jailer. The story states before his execution he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell.

Another take on Valentine's Day:
The celebration of Saint Valentine did not have any romantic connotations until Chaucer's poetry about "Valentines" in the 14th century. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love by presenting flowers, sweets, and sending 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. Valentine's Day symbols used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, mass-produced greeting cards have replaced handwritten valentines.

Yet another take on Valentine's Day:
In Ancient Rome Lupercalia was observed February 13–15. Lupercalia is an archaic rite connected to fertility. Lupercalia was a festival local to the city of Rome. There is no evidence of any link between St. Valentine's Day and the rites of the ancient Roman festival, despite what many believe. Sources claim links to Greco-Roman February holidays were devoted to fertility. Earlier links were focused on sacrifice rather than romantic love. In the ancient Athenian calendar the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera.

Valentine's Day Facts:
  • Approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine's Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.
  • In Victorian times it was considered bad luck to sign a Valentine's Day card
  • Americans began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. 
  • In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America.  
  • Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
  • 3% of pet owners will give Valentine's Day gifts to their dogs.
  • Many believe the X symbol became synonymous with the kiss in medieval times. People who couldn't write their names signed in front of a witness with an X. The X was then kissed to show their sincerity. 
  • In the Middle Ages, men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would pin the name on their sleeves for a week for everyone to see. This was the origin of the expression "to wear your heart on your sleeve."

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