St. Valentine's Day

The origins of St. Valentine's Day are not known; however, there are several different martyrs named Saint Valentine mentioned in legends. The Roman priest named Valentine, who died circa 270, was imprisoned because of his Christian beliefs. At that time, Roman emperors mandated that people believe in Roman gods. The story says that Valentine was put to death on February 14 and signed his farewell note "From Your Valentine."

The holiday that is now celebrated as St. Valentine's Day may be traced back to the Roman feast of Lupercalia. There were also pagan love festivals where it was customary to randomly choose a mate on February 14. And it was also believed that birds mated each spring on that same day.

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
– Chaucer, "Parliament of Foules"

Cupid, with a bow and quiver of arrows, is a popular symbol of the holiday. Today, people all over the world exchange romantic or humorous messages called "valentines" on February 14. In the 1840s, Esther Howland sent the first commercial valentines. Although St. Valentine's Day is not an official holiday, many people plan to give flowers, candy, or poems to loved ones.

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