The origins of Valentine’s Day are tied to Lupercalia, a festival that took place on February 15 in ancient Rome, and Saint Valentine, which may refer to more than one man named Valentine or Valentinus. He (or they) were martyred on February 14 by Roman emperor Claudius II in the third century.
Lupercalia involved a process in which men and women were paired up for festivities through a process of writing and selecting names at random. One story about Valentine depicts him as a priest who refused to give up his faith, despite Claudius’s command to imprison him. He healed the blind daughter of his jailer and wrote the first valentine to say goodbye before his execution and signed it, “your Valentine.” Another story portrays him as the man who defied Claudius’s orders to stop conducting wedding ceremonies, making him the patron saint of lovers. In the Middle Ages, many Europeans believed birds mated around February 14, which is why Geoffrey Chaucer famously wrote, “For this was on Saint Valentine’s day, / When every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” in his poem “The Parliament of Fowls.”
These origins cinched a tradition of celebrating love on February 14, which the Catholic Church recognized as Saint Valentine’s Day, especially by giving written notes to a lover. By the 1700s, the English latched onto this tradition, and by the 1840s, business owners saw the market for Valentine’s Day cards and began to commodify valentines.
Rather than going to the commercialized card-making industry to tell your loved ones how special they are, consider making a unique, handmade card! With the Cricut, scrapbook paper, stickers, and stamps in the Creative Space, you can easily create something special for someone special at the Library!
If you are interested in reading more about the history of Valentine’s Day, check out Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on St. Valentine, Dr. D. Maxwell Jackson’s article about Valentine’s Day, this book on the meaning of Valentine’s Day for kids, and more resources available on the Inspire databases.