valentine love couple stock photo

Valentine's Day is one of the most popular and fun holidays of the year, yet it is neither a federal holiday nor a patriotic day.

It is a day for expressing friendship and love, as well as traditional gift-giving, exchanging Valentine's Day cards and eating out at restaurants.

But the origins of this holiday are in the days of severe Christian persecution in ancient Rome, when the religion of Jesus Christ was still an endangered church.

The name Valentinus, or Valentine in English, was a popular name in Ancient Rome and there are a number of Christian saints who had that name and feast day on Feb. 14.

But the one probably most associated with the modern holiday was Saint Valentine of Rome, who died a martyr in 269 A.D. His feast day was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 A.D. to be celebrated on Feb. 14, which was the date of the saint's death.

According to legend, Saint Valentine was imprisoned in Rome for performing Christian marriages for Roman soldiers and for ministering to persecuted Christians.

Among those he had ministered to was a judge's blind daughter, to whom he is said to have restored sight. Before his execution, he wrote a note of farewell to the girl and signed it, "Your Valentine."

His feast day became associated with romantic love by the early English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century when the tradition of courtly love was flourishing.

Chaucer's romantic poem was written 1382 for King Richard II of England in honor of his marriage with Anne of Bohemia.

As time went on, celebrations of love on Feb. 14 became more elaborate and traditional with Valentine cards being exchanged, along with such gifts as candy.

The first Valentines mass-produced in the United States date from 1847 by Esther Howland of Worcester, Mass., whose father operated a stationary store. The cards were on embossed paper and with lace imported from England.

Then in 1849, Graham's American Monthly noted, "Saint Valentine's becoming, nay it has become, a national holiday."

Have a lovely day this Valentine's Day.

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