“Love is the feeling, the emotion and the sense of sentiment one feels for the one he loves.”
Every February, across the country we celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving flowers, candies and cards to those we love. We do this in honor of Saint Valentine. The day became associated with romance in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. The holiday is named after two among the numerous early Christian martyrs named Valentine.
You may be wondering, “Who is St. Valentine”? According to the legend, Valentine was a priest who served during third century Rome. There was an Emperor at that time by the name of Claudius II. Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those that were married. With this thought in mind, he outlawed marriage for young men in hopes of building a stronger military base. Supposedly, Valentine decided this decree just wasn’t fair and chose to marry young couples secretly. When Emperor Claudius II found out about Valentine’s actions, he had him put to death.
Another legend has it that Valentine was an imprisoned man who fell in love with his jailor’s daughter. Before he was put to death, he sent the first ‘valentine’ himself when he wrote her a letter and signed it ‘Your Valentine’, words still used on cards today. Perhaps we’ll never know the true identity and story behind the man named St. Valentine. February has been the month to celebrate love for a long time, dating clear back to the Middle Ages. In fact, Valentines ranks second only to Christmas in number of greeting cards sent.
In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, they began the Feast of Lupercalia. In those days, the lives of young boys and girls were strictly separated. However, on the eve of festival of Lupercalia, the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar during the festival with which he chose. Sometimes the paring of the children lasted an entire year, and often they would fall in love and later get married.
By the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in both England and France. Despite attempts by the Christian church to sanctify the holiday, the association of Valentine’s Day with romance and courtship continued through the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, the holiday evolved, and by the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine’s Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts eventually spread to the American colonies. The first commercial Valentine’s Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howlanda Mount Holyoke, a graduate and native of Worcester, Mass. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap”. The tradition of Valentine’s cards did not become widespread in the United States, however, until Howland began producing them in large scale.
Today, of course, the holiday has become a booming commercial success. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards sent each year are valentines. The Valentine’s Day card spread with Christianity, and is now celebrated all over the world. One of the earliest cards was sent in 1415 AD by Charles, duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. The card is now preserved in the British Museum. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to tell and show the ones that you love how much you love them.
Note: Isgaelle Isma is a junior at Neash High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida. She wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.
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