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 (www.pinterest.com/dsitters/).
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