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History of Valentine’s Day

Abbie Treado, Bottomline Writer

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Valentine’s Day is an iconic holiday that is celebrated worldwide. Here in the United States, it is characterized by the exchange of candy, flowers, cards and other gifts, as well as celebrations among loved ones. Overall, Valentine’s Day is an extremely popular holiday known in the US as the “day of love,” but very little is known about its origins. Where exactly did this well-known, mysterious holiday originate?

Valentine’s Day is the shortened version of Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine. Religiously, the day honors two saints– Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni– who are Christian martyrs believed to have lived in the second century B.C. Other than their names, means of death and location of burial, very little is known about the Valentines of Rome and Terni. Relics of these saints are still intact and are preserved at basilicas and churches throughout Europe. Similarly, the head of Valentine of Terni is preserved in the abbey of New Minster, Winchester, in England.

In addition, there are many legends surrounding Valentine’s Day. It is said that St. Valentine performed secret weddings for Roman soldiers, who at the time were not allowed to be married because their marriage would distract them from the importance of battle. According to this legend, Valentine gave paper-cut hearts to these soldiers and other victims of persecution, which explains the association of hearts with Valentine’s Day. St. Valentine was also said to have worn a ring engraved with a symbol of Cupid.

The first documented association between romance and Valentine’s Day occurred in the 14th century, when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem that referenced St. Valentine to commemorate the one-year anniversary of King Richard II’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia. The modern-day stereotypical Valentine’s Day poem, beginning with “The rose is red, the violet’s blue,” was published in Gammer Gurton’s Garland in England in 1784.

Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. It is most commonly commemorated by the exchange of valentines, which can consist of poetry, flowers, chocolates, candy, cards, letters and other gifts. Many couples choose to go out to dinner or take a vacation to celebrate the holiday. In schools, children often exchange valentines with their classmates. To celebrate Valentine’s Day at Glenbard South, the newspaper staff sponsors the sale of Valentine’s Day-themed balloons to be sent to friends.

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The student news site of Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois
History of Valentine’s Day