Happy Valentine’s Day! This is the month for all of us to let those special persons in our lives know just how much they mean to us. As well as to reminisce about receiving something special from a “secret” valentine and how wonderful that may have made us feel. Well, this tradition goes back for centuries.
February 14 was originally dedicated to two ancient martyrs named Valentine. Valentine of Rome, who suffered martyrdom about AD 269. He was a priest and doctor who is said to have treated patients even if they could not pay. The other was Valentine of Terni, who in AD 197 was named bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Emperor Aurelian. However, far more prominent historically is Valentinius of Alexandria, an influential Gnostic teacher and a candidate for Bishop of Rome. In his teachings, the marriage bed assumed a central place in Christian love. While European countries celebrated Valentine’s Day for centuries, British settlers most probably imported it to North America in the 19th century.
The first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced in the United States in 1847, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Their creator was Ester Howland who took her inspiration from an English valentine she received, and her father sold her creations in his book and stationery store. Her valentines were meant to be given to “one’s true love”, and for many years in the United States these were the only individuals that exchanged valentines. By the early 20th century, valentine cards were being exchanged among family members and soon to friends. The practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manners of gifts in the Untied States in the second half of the 20th century.
On this Valentine’s Day, whether you are giving or receiving a Valentine, I hope this little gesture makes you feel wonderful all year long. Happy Valentine’s Day!