What’s Behind the Candy and Hearts

Sarah Kearsley

 Although today Valentine’s Day revolves around roses, romance, and extravagant dinners, its historical background is quite different. Valentine’s Day is not only a day to receive chocolate and flowers, but should also be a day to commemorate its interesting past.

According to History.com, Valentine’s Day traces back to an ancient Roman story about St. Valentine. The Catholic Church says that there are a few different stories of St. Valentine and the origin of Valentine’s Day. One of these legends says that Valentine was a priest in Rome during the third century. The emperor at the time, Claudius II, outlawed marriage for young men, with the intension of keeping them strong soldiers. Because Valentine believed that Claudius’ acts were unjust, he began performing secret marriages for young couples. When Valentine was caught, Claudius demanded that he be put to death.

The website Infoplease.com offers another legend behind the origin of Valentine’s Day that says that St. Valentine was imprisoned by Emperor Claudius II and then fell in love with the jailer’s daughter.  History.com adds, “According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl—possibly his jailor’s daughter—who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression that is still in use today.”

Huffingtonpost.com supplies a bit more historical information. The site reports that Valentine’s Day was deemed an official holiday in 498 AD by Pope Gelasius. While Valentine’s Day has been around for many years, its popularity in America truly developed through the 18th century, when the first Valentine’s Day card was created.  The Huffington Post tells us, “The oldest known Valentine’s poem in existence today was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, during his imprisonment in the Tower of London, following the Battle of Agincourt.” It is believed that the poem was written to his wife.

While today February 14 remains a day to celebrate romance, it is interesting to understand the captivating stories behind its origin.