Bouquets of flowers, handwritten notes and candy often come to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day. Whether you celebrate with friends, family or a romantic partner, the holiday is a special one to express your love, affection and appreciation for another person.
But how did Valentine’s Day come to be?
Well, roses are red, violets are blue, USA TODAY wants to give some information on Valentine’s Day to you. So, here is when Valentine’s Day 2023 is, the history of the holiday and why we celebrate.
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When is Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day 2023 is Tuesday, February 14.
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How did Valentine’s Day start?
Valentine’s Day as we know it, full of love, candy and flowers, is very different from the holiday’s origins.
Valentine’s Day has roots in Christianity, according to History.com. In fact, there were multiple St. Valentines in history, and it is unclear who the real namesake for the holiday is.
One Valentine was a priest in third century Rome who defied Emperor Claudius II after Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine would perform marriages in secret for young lovers. This ultimately led to Valentine’s death.
Another, St. Valentine of Terni, was a bishop beheaded by Emperor Claudius who many believe is the true namesake for the holiday.
There are many other legends of St. Valentine, including one told of an imprisoned Valentine sending the first “valentine” greeting after falling in love with a young girl who often visited him. Before his death, Valentine allegedly wrote her a letter signed: “From your Valentine.”
While the true story of Valentine’s Day is debatable, most portray the saint as a heroic, kind and romantic person.
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Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Despite its less-than romantic and more so bleak origins, February 14 is now known as a day for love. This came in part from the Middle Ages, during which it was believed the date marked the start of birds’ mating season.
Additionally, the pagan celebration of Lupercalia was on February 15, and the Church wanted to “Christianize” the holiday: queue St. Valentine. Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture Faunus, as well as to Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.
During the festival, priests would sacrifice specific animals for fertility and purification and ritualistically place the sacrificial blood on women. It was believed those who received the blood would be more fertile the next year.
In 1375, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote “Parliament of Foules,” which was the first poem to record Valentine’s Day: “For this was sent on Seynt Valentynes day / Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make.”
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By the 18th century, the exchange of small gifts or cards on Valentine’s Day between friends and lovers became commonplace. By 1900, printed cards were the norm to show affection to another as printing technology improved.
And the well-known and ever-popular Hallmark card was first introduced in 1910 when Hallmark founder J.C. Hall sold postcards for Valentine’s Day. In 1912, the company switched over to greeting cards and they hit store shelves in 1916.
Source: USA Today