St. Valentine’s Day began as a celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentine. One legend about the origin of Valentine’s Day involves Father Valentine, a defiant Roman priest in the 3rd century. He was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. It is believed that young couples he secretly wed would visit his cell, passing him flowers and notes through the bars as symbols of their gratitude. The legend continues that Father Valentine fell in love with his jailor’s daughter. On February 14, the day he was executed, it is said he passed the young girl a note that was signed, “from your Valentine”, a phrase that has lived ever after.
It wasn’t until the 1300s that the holiday became associated definitively with love and romance, with poet Geoffrey Chaucer writing about love birds on St. Valentine’s Day. The first Valentine greeting appeared in the 15th century. It was a poem composed in French by Charles Duke of Orleans to his wife, which he sent while imprisoned in the Tower of London. By the 17th century people in Great Britain began the tradition of exchanging handmade paper Valentine’s Day cards or letters. The tradition spread to North America with the first mass produced cards appearing in the 1840s. Over time Valentine’s Day soon exploded into a major consumer holiday. Today, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, more cards than any other holiday except for Christmas!
Come make valentines at the Galt Museum and Archives on Saturday February 13 from 1-2pm at our Saturdays at 1:00 family program. Admission fees apply, which include supplies and access to exhibits. Adults to attend with children. Registration not required.