A 'lovely' history
Valentine's history dates back to 5th Century
Ahh…Valentine's Day, the most romantic of holidays. While you're busy scrambling around for that perfect present for your Valentine, you might take inspiration from the holiday's romantic background.
The tradition of couples giving candy, flowers or other gifts originated in 5th Century Rome as a tribute to St. Valentine, a Catholic Bishop.
More than 800 years before the establishment of Valentine's Day, the Romans had a mid-February celebration for the god Lupercus. The celebration featured a lottery where young men would draw the name of a young girl out of a box. The young girl would then be his companion for the rest of the year.
Trying to move away from the pagan festival, Pope Gelasius order the lottery to be changed. Instead of the names of young women, the box would contain the names of saints. Men and women would draw from the box, with the aim of emulating the ways of their chosen saint.
The change didn't go over to well with many of the young men, so the church abandoned the practice and began looking for a suitable patron saint of love to take Lupercus' place. Church officials found the perfect inspiration in St. Valentine, who, in 270 AD, had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius.
Claudius had banned his soldiers from marrying. Valentine defied those orders, secretly performing marriage ceremonies for those who came to him. Claudius discovered the practice and had Valentine stoned and beheaded.
Shortly before Valentine's death, he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer. Legend has it his love, and his faith, managed to miraculously heal her from her blindness.
Before he was taken to his death, he signed a farewell message to his love, signed "From Your Valentine."
The phrase has been used on his day ever since.
Although the lottery was banned by the church, the mid-February holiday honoring St. Valentine's was still used by Roman men as a way to woo their chosen woman. It became a tradition for the men to give the ones they admired handwritten messages of affection, containing Valentine's name.
The loving tradition grew into the bestowing of Valentine's cards.
The first true Valentine card was sent in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the time.
Cupid, another symbol of the holiday, became associated with it because he was the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty. Cupid often appears on Valentine cards.