Valentine’s Day History, Legends, Popular Traditions and Modern Times


Valentine’s Day, also called Feast of Saint Valentine or Saint Valentine’s Day, is an annual holiday celebrated on February 14.

It originated as a Western Christian liturgical day honoring one or more primitive saints called Valentino, and is recognized as an important commercial celebration in many regions of the world, although it is not a holiday in any country.


Several stories of martyrdom associated with the various Valentines that were connected with February 14 were added to later martyrologies, including a popular hagiographic account of Valentine’s Day in Rome indicating that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and minister. to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to the legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and before his execution, wrote him a letter signed as “Your Valentine” as a farewell.

Valentine's Day : History, Legends, Popular Traditions and Modern Times

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The first day was associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In eighteenth-century England, it became an occasion when lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering sweets and sending greeting cards (known as “Valentine’s cards”). In Europe, Valentine’s keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the heart of the giver,” as well as to children, to avoid epilepsy (called Valentine’s Malady). The symbols of Valentine’s Day that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, the pigeons and the winged Cupid figure. Since the 19th century, handwritten Valentine cards have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Valentine’s Day is an official holiday in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. Many parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrate Valentine’s Day, although on July 6 and July 30, the previous date in honor of the Roman priest Saint Valentine, and the last date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the bishop of Interamna (modern Terni)



Numerous early Christian martyrs were called Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb.m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep.Interramnensis M. Romae). Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred in 269 and was added to the calendar of saints by Pope Galesius in 496 and was buried on Via Flaminia. The relics of St. Valentine were preserved in the Church and the Catacombs of St. Valentine in Rome, which “remained an important place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of St. Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV “. The skull crowned with flowers of Valentine is displayed in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Other relics are found at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.

Valentine's Day : History, Legends, Popular Traditions and Modern Times

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Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian in 273. He is buried in Via Flaminia, but in a different place than Valentine of Rome. His relics are in the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni (Basilica di San Valentino). Jack B. Oruch states that “the summaries of the acts of the two saints were found in almost every church and monastery in Europe.” The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine, who was mentioned in the first martyrologies dated February 14. He was martyred in Africa with several companions, but nothing is known about him. Valentine’s head was preserved in the abbey of New Minster, Winchester, and was venerated.

February 14 is celebrated as Valentine’s Day in several Christian denominations; has, for example, the rank of ‘commemoration’ in the calendar of the saints in the Anglican Communion. In addition, the day of the feast of St. Valentine is also given in the calendar of the saints of the Lutheran Church. However, in the 1969 revision of the Calendar of Roman Catholic Saints, Valentine’s Day on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular calendars (local or even national) for the following reason: “Although the Valentine’s memorial is old, it is left to the particular calendars, since, apart from its name, nothing is known about Valentine’s Day, except that it was buried in Via Flaminia on February 14 “.

The festival is still celebrated in Balzan (Malta) where it is said that there are relics of the saint, and also throughout the world by traditionalist Catholics who follow the calendar before the Second Vatican Council.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Saint Valentine is recognized on July 6, in which Saint Valentine is honored, the Roman presbyter; In addition, the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, bishop of Interamna, on July 30.


J. C. Cooper, in The Dictionary of Christianity, writes that St. Valentine was “a priest of Rome who was imprisoned for helping persecuted Christians.” The contemporary records of Valentine’s Day were probably destroyed during this persecution of Diocletian at the beginning of the 4th century. In the fifth or sixth century, a work called Passio Marii et Marthae published a story of martyrdom for Saint Valentine of Rome, perhaps borrowing the tortures that happened to other saints, as was usual in the literature of that period. The same events are also found in the Martyrology of Bede, which was compiled in the eighth century.


He states that Saint Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by the Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a conversation with him, trying to convert him to Roman paganism to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, it is reported that he performed a miracle by curing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer’s daughter and her family of forty-six members (family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized.

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A later Passio repeated the legend, adding that Pope Julius I built a church on his sepulcher (it is a confusion with a fourth-century tribune named Valentino who donated land to build a church at a time when Julio was a Pope). The legend was taken up as a fact by later martyrologies, beginning with the martyrology of Bede in the eighth century. It was repeated in the thirteenth century, in The Golden Legend.

There is an additional adornment to The Golden Legend, which according to Henry Ansgar Kelly, was added centuries later, and was widely repeated. The night before Valentine’s execution, he was supposed to have written the first “Valentine’s Day” card, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as “Your Valentine”. The expression “Of your Valentine” was later adopted by modern Valentine’s letters. This legend has been published by American Greetings and The History Channel.

John Foxe, an English historian, as well as the Order of the Carmelites, claim that Saint Valentine was buried in the Church of Praxedes in Rome, located near the cemetery of San Hipólito. This order says that, according to the legend, “Julia herself planted a pink-flowered almond tree near her grave.Today, the almond tree is still a symbol of enduring love and friendship.”

Another embellishment suggests that Valentine’s Day performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this to make his army grow, believing that married men did not become good soldiers. However, George Monger writes that this marriage ban was never issued and that Claudius II told his soldiers to take two or three women to them after his victory over the Goths.

According to the legend, in order to “remind these men of their vows and the love of God, it is said that Valentine cut hearts from the parchment”, giving these soldiers and persecuted Christians a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts in San. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring, usually worn at the hands of Christian bishops with an image of Cupid engraved on it, a recognizable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire; The Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask him to marry them. Probably due to the association with Valentine, the amethyst became the February stone, which is believed to attract love.

Popular Traditions

While European folk traditions connected to Valentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day have been marginalized by modern Anglo-American customs that connect the day with romantic love, there are some remaining associations that connect the saint with the advent of spring.

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While the custom of sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts originated in the United Kingdom, Valentine’s Day remains connected with several regional customs in England. In Norfolk, a character named ‘Jack’ Valentine touches the back door of the houses and leaves sweets and gifts for the children. Even though I was leaving treats, many children were afraid of this mystical person.

In Slovenia, St. Valentine or Zdravko was one of the saints of spring, the saint of good health and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims. A proverb says that “Valentine brings the keys to the roots”. Plants and flowers begin to grow on this day. It has been celebrated as the day when the first work begins in the vineyards and in the fields. It is also said that the birds propose or marry on that day. Another proverb says “Valentin – prvi spomladin” (“Valentine – the first saint of spring”), as in some places (especially White Carniola), Valentine marks the beginning of spring. Valentine’s Day has been celebrated recently as the day of love. The day of love was traditionally March 12, the day of San Gregorio, or February 22, the day of San Vicente. The patron of love was San Antonio, whose day was celebrated on June 13.


Modern Times

In 1797, a British publisher published The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which contained dozens of sentimental verses suggested to the young lover who could not compose his own. Printers had already started to produce a limited number of cards with verses and sketches, called “mechanical valentines.” Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early nineteenth century that they were assembled in factories. Fancy Valentines was made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1835, 60,000 Valentine’s cards were sent by mail in Great Britain, despite the fact that the postage was expensive.

A reduction in postal rates after Sir Rowland Hill’s postal reforms with the invention of the 1840 postal stamp (Penny Black) saw the number of Valentines increase, with 400,000 shipped just a year after his invention, and marked the beginning of the less personal practice but easier to send an email to Valentines. That made it possible for the first time to exchange cards anonymously, which is taken as the reason for the sudden appearance of spicy verses in a time that, for the rest, was prudently Victorian. Production increased, “Cupid’s Manufactory” as Charles Dickens called it, with more than 3,000 women employed in manufacturing. The Laura Seddon Greeting Card Collection at Manchester Metropolitan University gathers 450 Valentine’s Day cards dating from the early 19th century in Great Britain, printed by the leading publishers of the day. The collection appears in the book by Seddon Victorian Valentines (1996).

In the United States, Valentines Howland (1828-1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts, produced and sold the first mass-produced embossed Valentines. His father ran a large book and stationery, but Howland was inspired by an English Valentine he had received from a business partner of his father. Intrigued with the idea of ​​making similar Valentines, Howland started her business by importing paper lace and floral ornaments from England. A writer at Graham’s American Monthly observed in 1849, “Valentine’s Day … is becoming, has not become, a national holiday.” The English practice of sending Valentine’s cards was established enough to appear as an argument in Harrison’s Confessions (1851) by Elizabeth Gaskell: “I broke into my explanations: ‘Valentine’s Day I do not know about.’ “It’s in your writing,” he said coldly. Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has awarded an annual “Esther Howland Award for a visionary greeting card”.

Since the nineteenth century, handwritten notes have given way to greeting cards produced in series. In the United Kingdom, just under half of the population spends money on their Valentine cards, and around £ 1.9 billion was spent in 2015 on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Valentine’s Day trade was a harbinger of new festivals marketed in the US.

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In 1868, the British chocolate company Cadbury created Fancy Boxes, a box decorated with chocolates, heart-shaped for Valentine’s Day. Boxes of filled chocolates were quickly associated with vacations. In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all kinds of gifts, such as the delivery of jewelry.

The Association of Greeting Cards of the United States estimates that approximately 190 million Valentine’s cards are sent each year in the United States. Half of these cards are given to family members who are not husband or wife, usually children. When Valentine’s exchange cards made in school activities are included, the figure rises to one billion, and teachers become the people who receive the most Valentine’s cards. The average spending of Valentine’s Day has increased every year in the United States, from $ 108 per person in 2010 to $ 131 in 2013.

The increasing popularity of the Internet at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions. Millions of people use digital media every year to create and send Valentine’s Day greeting messages such as e-cards, love coupons or printable greeting cards. It is estimated that 15 million emails were sent in 2010. Valentine’s Day is considered by some to be a Hallmark holiday due to its commercialization.

In the modern age, liturgically, the Anglican Church has a service for Valentine’s Day (the Valentine’s Day), which includes the optional rite of renewal of marriage vows. In 2016, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales established a ninth prayer “to support single people seeking a spouse before Valentine’s Day.”

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