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The History of Valentines Day

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Birgit and Roger Pratcher
On 14 February we celebrate Saint Valentineĺs Day, usually by the way of exchanging cards, sweets, lingerie, flowers or jewelry.

But, what exactly are we celebrating, is it just a holiday the retail stores invented to get our money? One could think so, but no, we are actually celebrating a Christian Holiday, Saint Valentineĺs.

We are following a Christian and ancient Roman tradition. By now the Catholic Church recognizes three Saints by the name of Valentine, or Valentinus.

The first legend to the background of the celebration of Valentineĺs Day is this:

During the 3rd century a priest by the name of Valentine, under Claudius II in Rome, secretly disobeyed the law.

Claudius had come to believe that a single soldier was a better soldier than a married young man and so decided to outlaw marriage in order to have plenty young strong men with no wives at his disposal.

Valentine, the priest, did not obey this law and continued to celebrate the holy bond of marriage for young couples in secrecy.

Of course, the way it always works with secret clauses, he was caught and sent to his death.

The second legend believes that Valentine was a prisoner who fell in love with a young woman, who came to see him often. It is believed that she was his jailors daughter. Before his untimely death he wrote her a love letter, signed with ĹYour Valentineĺ. There fore the phrase ĹBe my Valentineĺ.

Some believe he was beheaded, others thought that he died of sickness.

No one is even sure if 14 February was the day of his birth or his death or if it had indeed anything to do with Saint Valentine at all. The only thing that is for sure, is that the Romans had a tradition in the middle of February, which would mark the 14th, called the Love Lottery. It was believed that spring and with it the renewal of life came along in the middle of February, therefore the love lottery was held, coupling young men and women for one year, often leading to marriage.

Valentineĺs Day is celebrated in the USA, Canada, Mexico, France, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The oldest known Valentineĺs card can be viewed in the British museum.

Valentineĺs day became an official Catholic Holiday in the year 496 or 498 AD. Pope Gelasius declared the 14 February to be Saint Valentineĺs Day.

The oldest known and remembered Valentineĺs poem is from Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, in 1415, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. It is part of a manuscript collection of the British Library in London.

Years later King Henry V is supposed to have hired the writer John Lydgate to compose a Valentineĺs letter to Catherine of Kalois.

In Great Britain it was around the 17th century that Valentineĺs Day became a celebrated Holiday. By the middle of the 18th century it was common for all social classes to exchange small gifts or handwritten notes with lovers, loved ones and friends.

By the end of the 18th century printed Valentineĺs cards were available.

In the United States people started celebrating Valentineĺs Day in the early 1700ĺs by exchanging Valentineĺs notes.

The Greeting Card Association announced that Valentineĺs Day is the second best selling card-sending day with one billion cards sold per year. The leader in the card industry is with 2.6 billion, Christmas.

In the year 1835 Pope Gregory XVI was so impressed by the Irish Priest Father John Spratt that he gave him the black and golden casket, which is believed to house the remains of Saint Valentine. This gift from Rome, the black and golden casket, can actually be viewed on Valentineĺs Day every year at Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland.

We hope that you did enjoy this little background on Valentineĺs Day and we wish you a very happy Valentineĺs Day, with lots of lasting love and Friendship!

Birgit and Roger Pratcher

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