We know that February 14th is called "Valentine's Day", and that because there is an apostrophe before the letter 's' it means that the day belongs to someone named Valentine. Who was Valentine, and how did he get his own day?
Valentine is actually Saint Valentine. Europe was mostly Christian in the Middle Ages when our calendar was being created, and many Christian saints have their own special Holy Days. ("Holy Day" = "holiday", get it?)
What is a "saint"? The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church may declare someone a saint who performed miracles, and who died, for their Christian faith.
Who was Saint Valentine? He lived so long ago that very little is known about him. Many stories have been handed down to us.
It is believed that Saint Valentine was the bishop Valentine of Interamna (which was a place in Rome). This bishop kept his Christian faith, even though the Emperor of Rome said it was a crime to be Christian. It is also said that Valentine secretly performed marriage ceremonies, because in ancient Rome soldiers could not be married. This may be the original connection of Valentine and love. Valentine was thrown in jail.
What was his miracle? Well, his jailer had a daughter who was blind. Valentine cured her blindness, and she got her sight back. Some say Valentine fell in love with her. While he was in jail, he sent a letter to the young lady signed "Your Valentine". It may have been the original Valentine's card!
The jailer converted to Christianity. Unfortunately, the Emperor didn't, and Valentine was killed by being clubbed with stones and beheaded. Pope Gelasius I declared that Valentine was a saint in the year 496.
Originally the Catholic Church celebrated 11 days in the year as feast days of St. Valentine, including February 14th.
The popularity of pledging love on St. Valentine's Day became very popular in Europe. People would send cards and write notes to people they liked or loved. Young men wrote Valentine's Day notes to ladies they admired.
The oldest Valentine that still exists is a letter from the year 1415. It is from Charles, the French Duke of Orleans, to his wife. He was also in jail, just like St. Valentine. He was in the Tower of London in England.
When America was discovered, people from England and France moved to the New World. They brought over the custom of sending Valentines. The first place you could buy printed Valentine's Day cards was in Chicago in 1847. A woman named Esther Howland made the cards. She was an artist who ran her father's paper store. She produced and sold cards. Since then, sending Valentine's Day cards has become more and more popular.
In the next 150 years, people began to give gifts on Valentine's Day as well. Popular Valentine's Day gifts include roses. In modern times, men also sometimes give Valentine's Day gifts of other types of flowers, chocolates, and diamond jewelry.
In the year 1969 the Catholic Church changed its Roman Catholic calendar of saints, and dropped all the Valentine's days! Officially, February 14th is the day of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius. It is a strange twist to the story. Even though it is no longer an official holy day, more people than ever of all faiths enjoy Valentine's Day.
On February 14th, don't forget to say, "Happy Valentine's Day!"
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