The history of Saint Valentine isn’t perfectly recorded. We know that Valentine of Rome was a bishop who was martyred in 269 and was added to the calendar of saints by Pope Gelasius I in 496, but why he was made a saint is only known through legends.
Perhaps he was a priest in Rome imprisoned for supporting Christianity, known for curing the blindness of his jailer’s daughter. This daughter, allegedly named Julia, is said to have planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave, inspiring the tradition of gifting flowers and the color pink’s association with the day. It has also been rumored that Saint Valentine performed marriages of soldiers forbidden to marry, thus a champion for love. Valentine was (maybe) known for wearing a purple amethyst ring with the symbol of Cupid, and purple is now known as the birthstone of February because of this association.
The 8th-century Gelasian Sacramentary recorded the celebration of the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14, and in the Victorian era, which was dedicated to floriography in courting and love, coinciding with industrialization of printing, an entire industry was born. The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, cards printed with a Cupid figurine and a poetic verse on love, skyrocketed attention to Valentine’s Day as everyone wanted in on the fun.
Thanks to a population with growing disposable income and a collective desire to be a part of the opulence seen in the Regency era, the embrace of Valentine’s Day gained popularity throughout the 1800s. In the Victorian era, mass production of love verse cards alongside the invention of the postage stamp in 1840, and companies capitalizing on the holiday, like Cadbury’s first heart-shaped box of chocolates, which debuted in 1868, further encouraged celebration of the day.
Today we celebrate in classrooms across the country as moms and dads help their little ones work through the class list, choosing just the right note for everyone. In-class parties, interrupting your casual Tuesday with sugar and cupcakes and candy, inspire pure glee from every preschooler.
Or perhaps you celebrate with your friends, as Parks & Recreation’s Leslie Knope famously began a new tradition, Galentine’s Day, as a day to celebrate on February 13th with your girlfriends – dinner out, cocktails, and a moment to be with people you love, even if you don’t have a romantic love in your life.
If you do have romance to celebrate, never miss a moment to do so! Relationships are a choice we make every day to be with someone who makes us happy, so take the moment as an excuse to remember. A date night out is never a bad idea. Pull out the wedding album to reflect, and splurge on a gift to let your favorite person know they matter.
However you celebrate the day, don’t let the little things pass you by, and always take a bite of the cupcake.