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A Brief History of Valentine’s Day

A brief history of Valentine's Day

Have you ever wondered about the history Valentine’s Day came from in the first place? It wasn’t until the 1700’s that Valentine’s Day gained traction as a major romantic holiday of cards and gifts, but it has a long history dating much farther back!

There are three saints named Valentine recognized by the Catholic Church.  One married young lovers even after Roman Emperor Claudius II decreed that young men could not marry because unmarried men, he thought, made better soldiers.  That Valentine was put to death.  A second saint Valentine might have helped Christians escape from Roman prisons and when he was captured, he sent a letter to a young girl with whom he had fallen in love signed, “From your Valentine.”    

Pagans celebrated a fertility festival in mid-February called Lupercalia, and another legend holds that young women in Rome placed their names in an urn during the festival and were paired for a year with a bachelor who chose their name.  Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day in the 5th Century, some say to “override” the pagan holiday. The oldest written Valentine appears to date from 1415 consisting of a poem written to his wife by the Duke of Orleans while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. 

It wasn’t until the 1700’s, however, that Americans began exchanging written Valentines, which now number about one billion each year. Although it is unclear when Valentine’s Day was first celebrated, the holiday does go back to the Middle Ages. Rather than giving multiple Valentines, during the Middle Ages, children would draw names and the name they drew would be their Valentine for a week (unlike the old Roman, pagan tradition of pairing for a year!). The children would then pin the name on their sleeve. 

Of course, Valentines Day wouldn’t be complete without Cupid! Cupid is the Roman God of love and beauty. Legend has it that if Cupid shoots you with an arrow, you will fall madly in love with the next person you meet. His arrows possess magical powers! Did you know that Cupid is sometimes pictured as being blind because, as the saying goes, “love is blind”?

Why not have fun with your little ones doing Valentine-themed crafts or baking with them? It’s always fun to start new traditions…. There are also many Valentine’s books that children love to read as well–if you are their Valentine, maybe they’ll even read one to you! Our Pinterest page has an entire board page full of ideas to share or surprise your children with (

Blog related articles: Way to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a Family

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About the Author: Yvonne Wonder

As the founder and managing director of Destination Sitters, LLC, a national hotel and event babysitting service, and the mother of two children, I strongly believe that family comes first. I personally needed babysitting when I moved to San Diego 14 years ago. Like most parents, I assumed there were standards for temporary babysitting; in reality, there are no state standards or licensing requirements for temporary babysitting. The idea for Destination Sitters was born! I wanted to Give Parents Peace of Mind® when traveling with their children, so I created strict screening requirements for the sitters we refer. There is nothing like the peace of mind that comes from getting great professional help to care for your children, especially when traveling away from home. I and my partners, along with our office staff, have that one goal in mind with everything we do. Through the years of working with children, I have been inspired to write three books, and this blog for parents’ and children’s wellbeing. I believe the best way to teach a child is leading by example, with love, honesty, integrity, compassion, perseverance, and personal responsibility. Learning these values and teaching children that all women and men are equal will encourage them to dream big to be anything they want to be! An entrepreneur for over 35 years, I previously spent years running a construction and design company with two offices in California and built million-dollar estates and remodeled existing ones. For three and half years, I was one of the primary designers on HGTV’s Curb Appeal. I have also been published in books, magazines and newspapers, and have been a featured designer in multiple showcase houses.

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