Valentine’s Day is also a time to appreciate friends in some social circles and cultures. For example, Valentine’s Day in Finland refers to “Friend’s day”, which is more about remembering all friends rather than focusing solely on romance. Valentine’s Day in Guatemala is known as Day of Love and Friendship). It is similar to Valentine’s Day customs and traditions countries such as the United States but it is also a time for many to show their appreciation for their friends.
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Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.
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Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Valentine of Terni: around the year 197 he was named bishop of Interamna (now called Terni). He is also buried on Via Flaminia, but in a different place to Saint Valentine of Rome. His relics can be found in the Basilica of Saint Valentine of Terni.
The day gets its name from a famous saint, but there are several stories of who he was. The popular belief about St Valentine is that he was a priest from Rome in the third century AD. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage because he thought married men were bad soldiers. Valentine felt this was unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret. When Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death.
While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
The origins of Valentine’s Day are not clear but many sources believe that it stems from the story of St Valentine, a Roman priest who was martyred on or around February 14 in the year 270 CE. How he became the patron saint of lovers remains a mystery but one theory is that the church used the day of St Valentine’s martyrdom to Christianize the old Roman Lupercalia, a pagan festival held around the middle of February.
The history of Valentine’s Day is obscure, and further clouded by various fanciful legends. The holiday’s roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.
In the United Kingdom during the 17th century, the celebration of Valentine’s Day became widespread. In the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers to exchange love notes written by hand. At the end of this century, printed cards started to replace these letters. In this period, Americans also adopted the tradition and in the 1840s, Esther A. Howland started to sell the first mass-produced Valentine’s day cards.
Some think that Valentine’s Day is on 14th February because this is the date when Saint Valentine died or was buried. Others believe that it is celebrated mid-February because it was an attempt by the Catholic church to christianize the celebrations of the pagan festival of fertility ‘Lupercalia’ which started on 15th February.