Like so many of our social and religious traditions, Valentine’s Day has its genesis in the Roman Empire.
Also called Saint Valentine’s Day or, more traditionally, the Feast of Saint Valentine, the Day is now devoted to the celebration of Romantic Love on February 14. It originated though as a Christian feast day honouring either one or both early Catholic saints named Valentinus. It now, however, has few Christian associations and is connected with commercial and occasionally-garish displays of romance and romantic love around the world.
Some of the numerous martyrdom stories associated with various Valentines connected to February 14 include an account of a Saint Valentine imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to one legend, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his accusing judge, and he wrote the girl a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before his execution.
Whatever the true story “The Feast of Saint Valentine” was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 to be celebrated on February 14 in honour of the Christian martyr, Saint Valentine of Rome, who died on that date in AD 269.
The day first became associated with romantic love about the time Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales in the 14th century with the new ideal of courtly love replacing the older tradition of arranged marriages.In 18th-century England, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid; the Roman God of Love.