“Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art every day my Valentine!” Thomas Hood
The two Valentines that are honored when we celebrate Valentine´s day on February 14 are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni.
Legend has it that the first Valentine was a priest of Rome who was imprisoned and sentenced to death during emperor Claudius II reign (268-270 AD) for helping persecuted Christians and for performing clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. Claudius II had forbidden soldiers to get married believing that married men did not make good soldiers. Valentine would cut hearts from parchment and give them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians to remind them of their vows and God´s love.
Before his execution on February 14 he performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. This event made her and her family convert to Christianism and they were baptized. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote a letter to Julia signing with “Your Valentine”. This was the very first Valentine´s “card” and the expression “Your Valentine” was later adopted by modern Valentine greeting cards and letters.
Saint Valentine was buried in the Church of Praxedes in Rome and Julia planted an almond tree near his grave. The almond tree remains a symbol of enduring love and friendship.
According to legend, the other Valentine, of Terni (in Umbria, Italy), who lived in the 3rd century, would often give flowers from his own garden to young visitors. Two of those visitors fell in love and married. They were so happy that many other couples wanted his blessing, to such an extent that that Saint had to dedicate one day of the month to a general benediction.
Because of his faith he was persecuted and beheaded on February 14 under emperor Aurelio around 273. His relics are kept in the basilica of Terni with a sign saying “Saint Valentine, patron of love” and the day of his death is celebrated as Valentine´s day.
Today February 14 is celebrated as St. Valentine´s Day in numerous Christian calendars, like the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church. Pope Paul VI removed the day was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 and was transferred to local or national calendars for the following reason: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.” (Calendarium Romanum ex Decreto Sacrosancti Œcumenici Concilii Vaticani II Instauratum Auctoritate Pauli PP. VI Promulgatum (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, MCMLXIX).
Although it is claimed by various authors, there is no direct link between the Roman festival of Lupercalia and St. Valentine´s Day. Lupercalia was celebrated in Ancient Rome between February 13 and 15 and was an old practice associated with fertility. Pope Gelasius (492-496) abolished the festival and some assert that he replaced it with the celebration of the Purification of Mary on February 14.
It is said that the first recorded association of St. Valentine´s day with romantic love was written by Geoffrey Chaucer in his Parlement of Foules (1382):
“For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”
(For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate).
Handmade paper Valentine cards became the thing to do in the Middle Ages, but the Industrial Revolution started an era of factory-made cards. In the UK sending Valentine cards became very popular in the 19th century and in 1835 60,000 cards were sent by post for this celebration. The number today is around 25 million in the UK and 150 million in the US. In addition, many now send their Valentine´s card electronically. It is clear that Valentine´s day has become big business with annual spending in the US of almost USD 13 billion (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/13/living/valentines-day-statistics-btn/).
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February 14 observed as a time for sending valentines (source: Merriam Webster).
The name Valentine/Valentijn/Valentino comes from Late Latin Valentinus, the name of two early Italian saints (from Latin valentia,strength/capacity).
Valentine´s day in other languages:
Spanish: San Valentino
Italian: San Valentino