Valentines Day is almost here! Every year around this time, candy and gifts are exchanged between friends and loved ones, all in the name of Saint Valentine. Who was Valentine, anyway?
It is believed that the original Saint Valentine was a priest living at the time of Emperor Claudius II, during the third century in Rome. The Emperor decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and children, because they wouldn’t desert the army to stay with their families. So he outlawed marriage for young, single men.
Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, continued to marry young men and their sweethearts in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Before being beheaded on the 14th of February, it is alleged that he wrote a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that has lasted through the centuries.
Although the truth behind the Valentine legend is vague, the story certainly emphasizes his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, a romantic figure. It’s no surprise then, that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most beloved saints in England and France. The day that was named in his honor has become one of the most popular unofficial holidays.
In America, Valentines Day did not become a tradition until around the time of the Civil War. Miss Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, is given credit for creating the first commercial valentines in the United States. She got the idea from her father, a stationer who had been importing valentines from England.
Valentines Day has since become very commercialized. While most parts of the world celebrate Valentines Day by exchanging cards, chocolates, flowers, poems, and gifts, the holiday has taken on some unique traditions in different parts of the globe.
The infographic below shows how people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day.
How do you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year? Let us know in the comments!