Celebrated on February 14 of each year, Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s Day is the traditional day when lovers convey their love to each other by sending Valentine’s cards, sometimes even anonymously. The most common feature of Valentine’s Day these days is the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of “valentines.” Popular Valentine symbols of modern times include the heart-shaped outline and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, mass-produced greeting cards have largely replaced handwritten notes. It is believed that nearly 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent around the world each year, making it the second busiest card-sending holiday after Christmas. It is believed that women buy approximately 85 percent of all “valentines.”

Stories of many Valentine’s

Opinions differ on who Valentine was. The first martyrologies mention at least three Valentines dated February 14. One is a priest in Rome, another a bishop of Interamna (now Terni in Italy) and the other lived and died in Africa. Many, however, believe that the first two are the same person.

However, it is widely believed that Valentine’s Day may have originated from the ancient Roman holiday of Lupercalia. On February 15, a festival was held in honor of one of their gods, Lupercus, whom the Romans invoked to ward off the threats of those ferocious wolves that roamed the adjacent forests. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia, a love lottery was organized in which the names of Roman girls were written on strips of paper and placed in jars. Then each young man drew a ticket and the girl whose name he chose would be his bride for the year.

Subsequently, the holiday became Valentine’s Day after a priest named Valentine. At that time, when Christianity was still a new religion, Valentine was a priest in Rome. The then Emperor Claudius II had issued an order forbidding Roman soldiers from marrying or becoming engaged. The emperor believed that once they were married, his soldiers would want to stay at home instead of fighting their wars. Valentine defied the Emperor’s decree and secretly married the young couples. He was finally arrested, imprisoned, and beheaded on February 14, the eve of Lupercalia. Valentine was posthumously named a saint. As Christianity strengthened in Rome, the priests moved the Lupercalia or spring festival from February 15 to 14, that is, Valentine’s Day. Since then, the holiday began to honor Saint Valentine instead of Lupercus.

“From Your Valentine”

According to another story, Valentine was one of the first Christians who was captured and dragged before the prefect of Rome and imprisoned for helping some Christian martyrs. He cured the jailer’s daughter of blindness while in jail. When the emperor found out about this miracle, he ordered Valentine’s beheading. Valentine is said to have sent the jailer’s daughter a farewell message signed, “From your Valentine.”

In 1969, as part of a larger effort to reduce the number of holy days of purely legendary origin, the Church dropped Valentine’s Day as an official holiday from its calendar. Currently, February 14 is dedicated solely to Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius.