When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of chocolate, flowers, pink and red hearts, and Valentine’s cards. It makes sense that all of those are the most notable parts of Valentine’s Day, because we’ve been handing out cards and receiving candy on February 14th since we were children. But what is the backstory behind Valentine’s Day? Has it always been a day about love and relationships? Or are its roots deeper and more complicated than meets the eye?
To start off, Saint Valentine wasn’t the name of a singular person; it was a very popular name during the 14th century, and there is a possibility that there could’ve been around 14 Saint Valentine’s coexisting all at once. There is no solid evidence to pinpoint the exact Saint Valentine responsible for the birth of this global holiday, but historians have narrowed it down to two different Saint V’s. Both were in Rome, preaching the good word of Christianity. One of these two Saint Valentine’s was martyred (put to death on the basis of religion) on February 14th of 269, providing us with the date for our beloved holiday.
In reality, nothing that occurs during the modern Valentine’s Day actually has much relation to its origin. For example, there was no emphasis on love and relationships in the ancestry of this day; the first recorded instance of Valentine’s Day being a romantic celebration was much later, in 1375, when English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his poem “Parliament of Foules”. He wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” The day later became commercialized by Hallmark, when they began to mass produce Valentine’s Day cards. The holiday has advanced to its modern state in more ways than one but the origin and the name Saint Valentine will never be forgotten.
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