Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day
Antique Valentine 1909 01.jpg
1909 Valentine's card
Also calledSaint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine
Observed byPeople in many countries;
Anglican Communion (see calendar)

Lutheran Church (see calendar)

Traditionalist Catholicism (see calendar)
TypeChristian, romantic, cultural, commercial observance
SignificanceFeast day of Saint Valentine; the celebration of love and affection
ObservancesSending greeting cards and gifts, dating, church services

Valentine's Day, also called Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine,[1] is celebrated annually on February 14. It originated as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.

There are a number of martyrdom stories associated with various Valentines connected to February 14,[2] including an account of the imprisonment of Saint Valentine of Rome for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire in the third century.[3][4] According to an early tradition, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer.[5] Numerous later additions to the legend have better related it to the theme of love: an 18th-century embellishment to the legend claims he wrote the jailer's daughter a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell before his execution;[6] another addition posits that Saint Valentine performed weddings for Christian soldiers who were forbidden to marry.[4]

The Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 to be celebrated on February 14 in honour of Saint Valentine of Rome, who died on that date in AD 269.[7][8] The day became associated with romantic love in the 14th and 15th centuries when notions of courtly love flourished, apparently by association with the "lovebirds" of early spring. In 18th-century England, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). Valentine's Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[9] In Italy, Saint Valentine's Keys are given to lovers "as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver's heart", as well as to children to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine's Malady).[10]

Saint Valentine's Day is not a public holiday in any country, although it is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion[11] and the Lutheran Church.[12] Many parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrate Saint Valentine's Day on July 6 in honor of Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and on July 30 in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni).[13]

Saint Valentine


Shrine of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland

Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine.[14] The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae).[15] Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred in 269 and was added to the calendar of saints by Pope Gelasius I in 496 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. The relics of Saint Valentine were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which "remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV".[16][17] The flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Other relics are found at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.[18]

Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (now Terni, in central Italy) and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian in 273. He is buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location from Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni (Basilica di San Valentino). Professor Jack B. Oruch of the University of Kansas notes that "abstracts of the acts of the two saints were in nearly every church and monastery of Europe."[19] The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him.[20] A relic claimed to be Saint Valentine of Terni's head was preserved in the abbey of New Minster, Winchester, and venerated.[21]

February 14 is celebrated as St. Valentine's Day in various Christian denominations; it has, for example, the rank of 'commemoration' in the calendar of saints in the Anglican Communion.[11] In addition, the feast day of Saint Valentine is also given in the calendar of saints of the Lutheran Church.[12] However, in the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: "Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14."[22]

The feast day is still celebrated in Balzan (Malta) where relics of the saint are claimed to be found, and also throughout the world by Traditionalist Catholics who follow the older, pre-Second Vatican Council calendar (see General Roman Calendar of 1960).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St. Valentine is recognized on July 6, in which Saint Valentine, the Roman presbyter, is honoured; in addition, the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30.[23][24][25]


St Valentine baptizing St Lucilla, Jacopo Bassano.

J.C. Cooper, in The Dictionary of Christianity, writes that Saint Valentine was "a priest of Rome who was imprisoned for succouring persecuted Christians."[26] Contemporary records of Saint Valentine were most probably destroyed during this Diocletianic Persecution in the early 4th century.[27] In the 5th or 6th century, a work called Passio Marii et Marthae published a story of martyrdom for Saint Valentine of Rome, perhaps by borrowing tortures that happened to other saints, as was usual in the literature of that period. The same events are also found in Bede's Martyrology, which was compiled in the 8th century.[27][28] It states that Saint Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer's daughter and his forty-six member household (family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized.[29][27]

A later Passio repeated the legend, adding that Pope Julius I built a church over his sepulchre (it is a confusion with a 4th-century tribune called Valentino who donated land to build a church at a time when Julius was a Pope).[28] The legend was picked up as fact by later martyrologies, starting by Bede's martyrology in the 8th century.[28] It was repeated in the 13th century, in The Golden Legend.[30]

There is an additional embellishment to The Golden Legend, which according to Henry Ansgar Kelly, was added in the 18th century and widely repeated.[31] On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he is supposed to have written the first "valentine" card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as "Your Valentine."[31] The expression "From your Valentine" was later adopted by modern Valentine letters.[32] This legend has been published by both American Greetings and The History Channel.[33]

Saint Valentine of Terni and his disciples

John Foxe, an English historian, as well as the Order of Carmelites, state that Saint Valentine was buried in the Church of Praxedes in Rome, located near the cemetery of Saint Hippolytus. This order says that according to legend, "Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship."[34][35]

Another embellishment suggests that Saint Valentine performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry.[36] The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers.[36][37] However, George Monger writes that this marriage ban was never issued and that Claudius II told his soldiers to take two or three women for themselves after his victory over the Goths.[38]

According to legend, in order "to remind these men of their vows and God's love, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment", giving them to these soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on St. Valentine's Day.[39]

Saint Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring, customarily worn on the hands of Christian bishops with an image of Cupid engraved in it, a recognizable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire;[37][40] Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask him to perform marriage for them.[37] Probably due to the association with Saint Valentine, amethyst has become the birthstone of February, which is thought to attract love.[41]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Valentynsdag
العربية: عيد الحب
Avañe'ẽ: Ojohayhúva ára
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Дзень сьвятога Валянціна
български: Свети Валентин
bosanski: Valentinovo
brezhoneg: Valentine's Day
Deutsch: Valentinstag
français: Saint-Valentin
गोंयची कोंकणी / Gõychi Konknni: व्हेलेंटायन डे
hrvatski: Valentinovo
Bahasa Indonesia: Hari Kasih Sayang
latviešu: Valentīna diena
Lëtzebuergesch: Vältesdag
lietuvių: Valentino diena
Limburgs: Valentiensdaag
magyar: Bálint-nap
मैथिली: प्रेम दिवस
македонски: Ден на вљубените
مصرى: عيد الحب
ဘာသာ မန်: တ္ၚဲသၟာဲယျ
مازِرونی: ولنتاین
Bahasa Melayu: Hari Valentine
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ချစ်သူများနေ့
Nederlands: Valentijnsdag
Nēhiyawēwin / ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ: 'ᓵᒋᐦᐄᐧᐁᐧᐃᒌᔑᑳᐤ
नेपाली: प्रणय दिवस
नेपाल भाषा: मतिना दिवश
norsk nynorsk: Valentinsdagen
Nouormand: Saint Valentîn
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Avliyo Valentin kuni
پنجابی: ویلنٹائن ڈے
polski: Walentynki
português: Dia dos Namorados
Gagana Samoa: Aso o Valenitina
ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲᱤ: ᱫᱩᱞᱟᱹᱲ ᱢᱟᱦᱟ
Simple English: Valentine's Day
slovenščina: Valentinovo
српски / srpski: Дан заљубљених
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Valentinovo
Türkmençe: Walentina güni
Thuɔŋjäŋ: Aköl de Balentin
vèneto: San Vałentin
Tiếng Việt: Ngày Valentine
吴语: 情人节
粵語: 情人節
中文: 情人节