Saint Valentine’s Day didn’t start out as a day for cards, candy, and kisses. It was a feast day in the early church dedicated to three different guys named Valentine who gave their lives for the Christian faith back in the third century.
Remarkably, ancient records show that a priest in Rome, a bishop in Interamna, and a missionary in Africa – all named Valentine – were separately martyred in different years on February 14th. Collectively, they were given the status of “saints” in various Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.
The modern customs related to Saint Valentine’s Day seem to go back to Britain and France in the Middle Ages, when people viewed February 14th -- half way through the second month of the year -- as the day that birds began to pair for the mating season.
Thus, the Christian feast day on February 14th known as Saint Valentine’s Day also became a day that early poets declared [air quotes] “specially consecrated to lovers” and “the proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers’ tokens.”
From writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382 to William Shakespeare in 1601, we get literary clues as to the development of the modern Saint Valentine’s Day traditions, including the sending of letters and special gifts to those destined to be together.
Over the centuries, the February 14th traditions mixed, and the word “Valentine” became less about ancient Christians martyred for their faith and more about mythological Cupid and his arrows of love.
There you have it, a brief history of Saint Valentine’s Day…