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Saint Valentine and the origins of Valentines Day

Updated on February 5, 2012

Valentines Day.

Every year, on the 14th day of February we traditionally celebrate by giving flowers, candy and cards to those we love, as well as generally keep those in the greeting card and floral industries in business. In many countries restaurants are filled with couples who celebrate their love with the accompaniment of fine cuisine. In fact it seems hard to find a young couple who is not keen to make the most of the occasion.

We do this in honor of Saint Valentine.

You may be wondering, "Who is St. Valentine"? When is Valentine's Day and why do we celebrate it on that specific day? Time to brush up on your Valentine's history!

Truth be told...

As most of us know, Saint Valentine's Day is a time of year that is historically associated with fertility and love. The story of how this day was created however, as well as Saint Valentine himself have been somewhat a mystery for quite some time. In fact, it has been a source of controversial debate for many years. The history of Valentine's Day is impossible to be obtained from any archive and the centuries passed have acted as a veil which has made the origin behind this day more difficult to trace. Our only source of information are legends and stories which have been passed down from one generation to the next.

You may not know...

The first officially recorded Valentine's Day was February 14th, 496 AD. As declared by Pope Galasius in memory of a 3rd century martyred priest in Rome.

Byzantine Orthodox icon of St. Valentine. Click on image to enlarge.
Byzantine Orthodox icon of St. Valentine. Click on image to enlarge.

Let's turn the clock back to around 270 AD.

Roman emperor Claudius threatened to make marriage illegal for young couples. He believed that single men made better soldiers than those that were married. And with that thought in mind he outlawed marriage for young men in hopes of building a stronger military base.

This ban on marriage was a great shock to the Roman people. However they did not dare protest or even oppose the emperor. Bishop Valentine however saw the trauma of young lovers who gave up all hopes of being united in marriage. He believed that marriage was part of God's plan and the idea of making marriage for young men illegal just wasn't fair and so continued to conduct marriages between young people in secret, in the name of love.

Valentine was not before long recognised as a friend of lovers and sweethearts in every Roman district. These actions gained him unwelcome notoriety unfortunately and as you can imagine this betrayal did not go down well with emperor Claudius. It was only a matter of time before Claudius came to know of this "friend of lovers," and had him arrested. He was jailed and scheduled to be beheaded.

But this is where the story gets interesting...

While in prison Valentine continued to minister to anyone he could...
While in prison Valentine continued to minister to anyone he could...

So while imprisoned, Valentine became acquainted and fell in love with the jailer's daughter. From what little we know, it is believed that on the day of his execution, February 14, Bishop Valentine wrote his love a letter from his prison cell which read: "From your Valentine". Words which are still being used on cards to this very day.

This story is widely regarded as the defining moment and tradition of Valentine's Day...

It may be that we will never know the true story of the man named St. Valentine or even how this celebration of love came to be but this much is for sure, February has been the month to celebrate love for a long time. In fact we can date it back to the Middle Ages.

To illustrate the appeal of this day further, in terms of greeting cards sent, the celebration of Valentines Day ranks second only to Christmas.

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Order your flowers online. Same day delivery!

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Valentine's Day poem by William Shakespeare

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I, a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

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