Valentine’s Day is approaching quickly! This wonderful holiday is only a few weeks away on February 14. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love dedicated to Saint Valentine. While Valentine’s Day is one of the most celebrated holidays globally, very little is known about the man and the history behind the holiday.
The most famous story is that Roman Emperor Claudius II forbade young men from marrying, because he believed men who weren’t distracted by marriage would make better soldiers. A priest named Valentine married young men anyways, until he was imprisoned for ignoring the law. While in jail, he healed the jailor’s sick daughter Julia and the two of them fell in love. On the night before his execution, he wrote her a letter that was signed “Your Valentine.”
Another story was that Valentine was imprisoned for providing aid to Christians who were being persecuted for their beliefs. While in jail, he was brought to the emperor Claudius II for interrogation. Claudius II was very impressed by Saint Valentine, and he told Valentine that he would spare his life if he forsook his religion. Rather than appease the emperor, Valentine attempted to convert him to Christianity. Valentine was sentenced to death for this. On the night before his execution, he performed a miracle and cured his jailor’s daughter of her blindness. Afterwards, he converted the jailor’s entire family to Christianity.
There have been many additions to these legends over time. One of these is that Saint Valentine wore a purple amethyst ring. An amethyst ring was traditionally worn by bishops at the time. Valentine’s ring also had an engraving of cupid because it was one of the only legal symbols of love in the Roman Empire. He had this done so that soldiers could identify him as the priest who would marry them. This is said to be why amethyst is the birthstone of February. Another story is that he cut hearts out of paper and gave them to persecuted Christians to remind them of God’s love. While these legends make for great stories, there is no proof that any of them actually happened. They could be entirely true, or only small details could be. It is also possible that they are simply stories to add to the legend of Saint Valentine for the sake of the holiday, similarly to the stories behind Santa Claus. Sadly, much less is known about the true history of Saint Valentine.
The known history of Valentine’s Day is that there were many early Christians named Valentine, and three of them were executed on February 14 due to persecution by the Romans. The executions were held centuries apart, so the three Valentine’s never met. Saint Valentine refers to any of them, as they are used interchangeably. One of them was a Roman priest, one was a Bishop in southern Italy, and all that is known about the third is that he died traveling in Africa.
The holiday of Valentine’s Day was a Christian celebration of these saints until 1382. Until then, the holiday was not associated with romance. Chaucer, author of Canterbury Tales, wrote a poem to celebrate a royal engagement. The poem was first recited at a royal feast for Saint Valentine’s Day on February 14, 1383. This is considered to be the day that Valentine’s Day became associated with romance. This tradition was expanded, mostly due to writers and poets, throughout the medieval era and Renaissance.
Modern Valentine’s Day began during the Industrial Revolution. This is when factories began producing cards. Today, Valentine’s Day has led to multiple billion dollar industries. Some of the most common gifts include chocolate, flowers, cards, and jewelry. 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, 189 million roses and 1 billion candy hearts, are sold for Valentine’s Day every year!
Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world today. The traditions are very similar in most countries, but some have unique traditions. In China, men give the woman they love chocolate and flowers. In Iran, it is a day to express love to mothers and wives. In South Korea and Japan, the women give men chocolate! This is due to a translation error when they brought the Western holiday to Japan, and it stayed as a tradition there. South Korea adopted the holiday from Japan, so they follow this same tradition.
While traditional gifts also include chocolate and flowers, jewelry is usually given to loved one when in a long term relationships. This is because chocolate and flowers will only last for a week, but jewelry lasts forever. They say that love also lasts forever, but you should get him or her some jewelry just in case!