Where did Valentine's originate from?

Every year we celebrate romance and the exchange of gifts in the name of Saint Valentine, but where did these traditions originate from and what really ignited this month of love?

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries across the world, from all North American countries, to France, the UK, Brazil and Australia. This tradition was first celebrated for romance in the 14th century, and quickly popularized, where friends and lovers from all social classes would commonly exchange small tokens of love, or handwritten letters. This hallmark holiday began evolving around the 1840’s thanks to Esther A. Howland, who was the first person ever to mass-produce elaborate Valentine’s cards in America, she was also widely known as “Mother of the Valentine.”   

Unfortunately, Valentine's certainly didn't start out as romantically as it has become according to the many stories based on its roots. There are a number of folktales connected to February 14th, yet no one can seem to agree on the origins of Valentine's Day. Numerous Christian martyrs were named Valentine, the Valentines honoured on this special day were the Valentine of Rome (a priest), and the Valentine of Terni (a bishop). The ancient Romans claim to be responsible for the name of this love day when Emperor Claudius II executed both of these men in the third century. If this story is true, Valentine's Day has sure come a long way since then.

Another tale, others claim to be "the real story of Valentine's Day" originated as a Christian feast day, honouring two Christian martyrs also named Saint Valentine, and through folk traditions has become a significant religious, cultural, and most of all commercial celebration of love. 

What about Cupid?

Now that we have an idea about Saint Valentine, where does Cupid come into play? Cupid is the God of love, born of Mercury, according to Roman mythology. His name means "passionate desire" as he is armed with bow and arrows, he is  said to be a messenger of the Gods dealing in love and passion. He has the divine power to make both mortals, and Gods fall in or out of love depending on which arrow he chooses to use on them. However, we mostly know Cupid for shooting a golden arrow that causes people to fall in love on February 14th.    

Putting the pieces together

From what we know, Valentine's originated through religion, and a significant person(s) named Saint Valentine. By the 1840's, Esther Howland helped quickly popularize this Hallmark holiday by mass-producing Valentine's cards. From there this romantic holiday has spread world-wide and continues to be celebrated annually. Although the historical roots of this celebration remain ambiguous, we do know one thing: February has become the month of love, and there's nothing more impacting than spreading love and peace, no matter how this unique holiday began!

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Dennis Demchyna February 27, 2023

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