Valentines Day History
There are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine’s
Day. Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who
was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269
A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says
that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who
had become his friend, and signed it "From Your Valentine". Other
aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the
temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed
for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor St.
Gradually, February 14 became the date for exchanging love
messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. The date
was marked by sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers. There was often
a social gathering or a ball.
In the United States, Miss Esther Howland is given credit
for sending the first valentine cards. Commercial valentines were introduced
in the 1800’s and now the date is very commercialised. The town of Loveland,
Colorado, does a large post office business around February 14. The spirit of
good continues as valentines are sent out with sentimental verses and children
exchange valentine cards at school.
Valentine’s Day started in the time of the Roman Empire.
In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno. Juno was the Queen
of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of
women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia.
The lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate.
However, one of the customs of the young people was name drawing. On the eve
of the festival of Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written on slips
of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from
the jar and would then be partners for the duration of the festival with the
girl whom he chose. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year,
and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.
Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved
in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius the Cruel was having a difficult
time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that the reason
was that roman men did not want to leave their loves or families. As a result,
Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. The good Saint Valentine
was a priest at Rome in the days of Claudius II. He and Saint Marius aided the
Christian martyrs and secretly married couples, and for this kind deed Saint
Valentine was apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned
him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered
martyrdom on the 14th day of February, about the year 270. At that time it was
the custom in Rome, a very ancient custom, indeed, to celebrate in the month
of February the Lupercalia, feasts in honor of a heathen god. On these occasions,
amidst a variety of pagan ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in
a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed.
The pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavored
to do away with the pagan element in these feasts by substituting the names
of saints for those of maidens. And as the Lupercalia began about the middle
of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine’s Day for the
celebration of this new feast. So it seems that the custom of young men choosing
maidens for valentines, or saints as patrons for the coming year, arose in this
Let me introduce myself. My name is Valentine. I lived in
Rome during the third century. That was long, long ago! At that time, Rome was
ruled by an emperor named Claudius. I didn’t like Emperor Claudius, and I wasn’t
the only one! A lot of people shared my feelings.
Claudius wanted to have a big army. He expected men to volunteer
to join. Many men just did not want to fight in wars. They did not want to leave
their wives and families. As you might have guessed, not many men signed up.
This made Claudius furious. So what happened? He had a crazy idea. He thought
that if men were not married, they would not mind joining the army. So Claudius
decided not to allow any more marriages. Young people thought his new law was
cruel. I thought it was preposterous! I certainly wasn’t going to support that
Did I mention that I was a priest? One of my favorite activities
was to marry couples. Even after Emperor Claudius passed his law, I kept on
performing marriage ceremonies — secretly, of course. It was really quite exciting.
Imagine a small candlelit room with only the bride and groom and myself. We
would whisper the words of the ceremony, listening all the while for the steps
One night, we did hear footsteps. It was scary! Thank goodness
the couple I was marrying escaped in time. I was caught. (Not quite as light
on my feet as I used to be, I guess.) I was thrown in jail and told that my
punishment was death.
I tried to stay cheerful. And do you know what? Wonderful
things happened. Many young people came to the jail to visit me. They threw
flowers and notes up to my window. They wanted me to know that they, too, believed
One of these young people was the daughter of the prison
guard. Her father allowed her to visit me in the cell. Sometimes we would sit
and talk for hours. She helped me to keep my spirits up. She agreed that I did
the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and going ahead with the secret marriages.
On the day I was to die, I left my friend a little note thanking her for her
friendship and loyalty. I signed it, "Love from your Valentine."
I believe that note started the custom of exchanging love
messages on Valentine’s Day. It was written on the day I died, February 14,
269 A.D. Now, every year on this day, people remember. But most importantly,
they think about love and friendship. And when they think of Emperor Claudius,
they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh — because
they know that love can’t be beaten!
|Hundreds of years ago in England, many children dressed up |
as adults on Valentine’s Day. They went singing from home to home. One verse
they sang was: align=”JUSTIFY”>Good morning to you, valentine;
Curl your locks as I do mine—
Two before and three behind.
Good morning to you, valentine.
|In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts
on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favorite decorations on
the spoons. The decoration meant, "You unlock my heart!"
|In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a
bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names on
their sleeves for one week. To wear your heart on your sleeve now means
that it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling.
|In some countries, a young woman may receive a gift of clothing
from a young man. If she keeps the gift, it means she will marry him.
|Some people used to believe that if a woman saw a robin flying
overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw
a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch,
she would marry a millionaire.
|A love seat is a wide chair. It was first made to seat one
woman and her wide dress. Later, the love seat or courting seat had two
sections, often in an S-shape. In this way, a couple could sit together
— but not too closely!
|Think of five or six names of boys or girls you might marry,
As you twist the stem of an apple, recite the names until the stem comes
off. You will marry the person whose name you were saying when the stem
|Pick a dandelion that has gone to seed. Take a deep breath
and blow the seeds into the wind. Count the seeds that remain on the stem.
That is the number of children you will have.
|If you cut an apple in half and count how many seeds are inside,
you will also know how many children you will have.