Who was Saint Valentine ?
by Brian Nisbet on February 1st
The history behind exactly who was St Valentine remains a mystery. There are several legends to choose from. One legend has it that Valentine was a priest living in Rome in the third century AD, and when the ruling emperor banned marriage for young men, as he believed single men to make more efficient soldiers, Valentine continued to perform wedding ceremonies for young couple and as a consequence was put to death. Another legend says that Valentine was then imprisoned and fell in love with the daughter of his jailor, Asterius.
He was able to cure her blindness with only his faith, and subsequently fell in love with her, sending her a love card signed 'From your Valentine', a tradition which remains to this day. Although the background behind who exactly was St Valentine is somewhat vague, he is upheld as a romantic, heroic and understanding man, and since medieval times has been one of the most popular saints in Europe. Some people believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in mid February as Valentine was probably killed in February 270 AD. Others believe that this time of year was chosen to Christianise a Pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival. Also, in ancient Roman times, February was officially seen as the beginning of spring, and a time of purification.
In UK Valentine's Day became popular in the 17th century and small tokens and letters were exchanged. By the end of the 18th century printed cards were being manufactured. In the 1840s in USA, Esther Howland made the world's first mass produced cards, which were highly decorative designs incorporating lace and ribbons. February 14th could well have been chosen for Valentine's Day as it has long been considered the day that starts the mating season for birds.
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