The Saint Valentine’s Day Story
Saint Valentine’s Day is a holiday which – like Christmas – has become a global commercial event.
Similarly, Valentine’s Day was considered a holy day.
However, unlike Christmas, it has lost its holy day status.
Many are unaware of its Church origins.
Why was Saint Valentine’s Day demoted? And why do the masses still embrace it?
Why is Valentine’s Day Even a Holiday?
History mentions at least three different individuals with the name Valentine (or Valentinus).
All three were martyred for their faith.
And all were recognized by the Catholic Church.
But, just who were these three men and which one, if any, are we celebrating on Saint Valentine’s Day?
Per archives, one was a priest living in Rome and one was a bishop living in Interamna (known now as Terni).
They were both alive (perhaps) at the same time and were buried on the Via Flaminia.
Because of this, some authorities believe the men are one in the same.
A Roman priest who became a bishop in Interamna. Then, sentenced to death before being returned to Rome for execution.
The third is said to have practiced in Africa, but not much is known about him.
This is the holy man (or men) of legend, to which we associate February 14.
However, an Internet search on “St. Valentine” or “Saint Valentine’s Day” will return just that – the man of legend.
Many links direct us to the legend of a bishop, or priest, or both.
Each revealing as much as the other.
Yet, they pass down among the ages very tall tales…
…with few variations.
The Roman martyrology confirms that these three men were martyred for their faith.
Yet, their names are absent from the earliest known list of martyrs. The Chronography of 354.
A celebration was established exclusively to respect Valentine.
Isn’t It Romantic? Nope.
I must note that this celebration mentions no support of lovers.
As a matter of fact, Pope Julius I dedicated a church to St. Valentine at the Ponte Molle.
No romantic love involved.
The Sacramentary of St. Gregory and the Roman Missal Tommasi mentions Saint Valentine as an important martyr.
The Western liturgical calendar earmarked the actual celebration for Valentine on February 14.
Yet, May 3 was the original date for the Day of Love.
Not February 14.
That may explain why February brings such inflated costs for flowers.
Henry Ansgar Kelley, distinguished Research Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles states that for most living in the Northern Hemisphere, “fresh flowers and lovebirds just aren’t consistent with this time of year.”
Kelley – and many other scholars – credit Geoffrey Chaucer with creating that connection in the 14th century.
Chaucer’s poem, The Parliament of Foules, suggests parallels between human courtship and the mating rituals of birds.
Employed in the court of Richard II, Chaucer marked the anniversary of his boss’ engagement to Anne of Bohemia with a poem.
The anniversary date was May 3.
Kelley notes that Chaucer strove to associate the date with a Saint’s Feast day.
During a diplomatic mission to Italy, Chaucer learned that May 3 was the feast day of St. Valentine in Genoa.
Who’s to say whether he thought it was the same feast or not.
However, the shift to February 14 for the romantic holiday did not occur until shortly before Chaucer’s death in 1400.
This is considered recent in perspective.
So, Exactly When Should You Give Your Heart(s) Away?
The Day of Love was traditionally March 12. Saint Gregory’s Day.
Also, February 22 on Saint Vincent’s Day.
Never mind that the patron saint of love was Saint Anthony. His day was June 13.
Many modern sources (and old legends) conclude that the rites of an ancient Roman fertility festival are the connection of the February 14 date. However, no document has confirmed them.
There is no real historical connection to a great many things that were going on at that time – Christian or Pagan.
Once the February 14 date caught on, the Saint Valentine’s Day holiday spread like wildfire.
And who wouldn’t want a holiday that celebrates love and human connection?
Who Else Celebrates Saint Valentine’s Day?
Many observe Saint Valentine’s Day in countries such as:
- Latín América. El Día de Los enamorados or Día del Amor y la Amistad.
- Guatemalans know it as the Día del Carino.
- The Chinese celebrate Valentine’s Day (Qixi Festival) on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar.
- Although Valentine’s Day is catching in India, most still consider it a cultural contamination from the West.
- The Jewish equivalent of Saint Valentine’s Day is celebrated usually in late August.
- In Japan, the romantic date night usually associated with Valentine’s Day happens on Christmas Eve.
- Saint Valentine is the patron saint for a large part of the Lebanese population.
- In South Korea, women give chocolate to men on February 14. Men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14. On April 14, those who did not receive anything on either day go to a Chinese-Korean restaurant to eat black noodles and lament their single life. Koreans designate the 14th of every month as a love-related day.
- In Finland and Estonia, Friend’s Day is the Valentine’s Day equivalent.
Want to Get Away from all Saint Valentine’s Day nonsense? Go Here!
In Brazil, people celebrate Día dos Namorados on June 12.
Probably because that is the day before Saint Anthony’s Day. Remember, the saint of love?
Brazilians know Anthony as the marriage saint.
February 14 falls too close to the Brazilian Carnival.
However, it makes Brazil a popular spot for singles who want to get away from the holiday and still have a good time.
No Time Off To Share the Love
So, for such a widely-celebrated holiday, why has Saint Valentine’s Day not become a public holiday?
Not enough factual information.
As a matter of fact, in 1969 the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints removed the feast of Saint Valentine from the General Roman Calendar.
The calendar now lists it as a commemoration.
“Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.”
But, Isn’t Everyone Doing It?
Despite its huge commercial presence, Martha C. White noted in her article on the website Money that only about 55% of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Provided by: Fundivo
That’s just a little over half. Not a huge number in the scheme of sales.
However, 2016 estimated sales were an average of $146.84.
Provided by: Fundivo
Total 2016 spending…
Provided by: Fundivo
Of course, it is nowhere near the 2016 holiday spending of over $1 trillion, but it’s up there.
Research has shown that Singaporeans are among the biggest spenders on Valentine’s Day.
60% indicate they would spend between $100 and $500 during the season leading up to the holiday.
It is no question that the greeting card, candy, restaurant, and jewel industries benefit greatly during this holiday.
Provided by: Fundivo
Based on the 2016 Saint Valentine’s Day holiday, we can determine that these industries had the most gains.
Valentine’s cards have a long history
Written Valentine’s Day greeting cards were popular as far back as 1400.
That’s around the same time as Chaucer.
Lovers at that time sang or said their words.
The oldest Valentine made is in the British Museum.
In Europe, people gave paper Valentines were in place of valentine gifts.
They became so popular, that they began to assemble them in factories. Made with real lace and ribbons, they were quite delicate and fancy.
In 1850, Esther Rowland was among the first to publish and sell Valentines in the United States.
Average sales for greeting cards have waned over the years.
Yet, people have not given up on the tried and true tradition of letting someone else say it best.
Other countries are just as giving during the Valentine’s Day holiday.
Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during this time of year.
In the scheme of things, does any of this even matter?
So, we don’t know very much about its namesake. And what we do know parallels our modern alternative facts and fake news.
Technically the holiday is no longer a celebration on the Western liturgical calendar. But we can still grasp the global meaning behind the holiday even if the origins are less than romantic.
Not to mention, in the name of our Valentine, writers create many wonderful works of art.
Too many songs and poems to recall. Although I’m sure you have your own favorite.
Even Valentine’s Day Rom-coms have become expected each year at the box office.
Nevertheless, writers create them. And they remind us of the love that we receive in our lives.
So, despite questionable origins, I’m sure we will continue to commemorate Saint Valentine’s Day.
It is one of the few holidays that truly reminds us of something.
Our need to connect with one another in a meaningful way.