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The mysterious origins of St. Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2012 | Alliant Credit Union

Everyone knows that February 14 is Valentine's Day, a traditional time for loved ones to exchange cards, candy, flowers and gifts. But nobody knows for certain how this celebration got its start. Some attribute the holiday to the martyrdom of St. Valentine. But which St. Valentine? At least three St. Valentines were martyred. One supposedly cured his jailor's daughter of blindness and then sent her a love letter prior to his execution. Another defied a Roman emperor's edict that men in the army remain unmarried. This St. Valentine conducted secret wedding ceremonies for soldiers and their sweethearts until his execution. And, then there's a completely different explanation for the holiday: that it evolved from an ancient Roman fertility festival that honored either Faunus, the god of agriculture, or Juno, the goddess of love and marriage.

Valentine's Day became extremely popular in Victorian England with people making and exchanging handcrafted cards of ribbons and lace. Yet, it wasn't until 1847 that Valentine's Day cards became mass produced - by Esther Howland of Worcester, MA. Hallmark began producing its Valentine's Day cards in 1916.

Sources: history.com, census.gov and en.wikipedia.org

 


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