No Flowers or Chocolates for This Saint!

When I travel I love researching the legends and stories of my destinations. Part of that is a curiosity about the origin of rituals, holidays, and traditions…in this case, Saint Valentine’s Day.

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No Flowers or Chocolates for This Saint!

Roses are Red,  Violets are Blue…I’m Glad I’m No Saint, Aren’t YOU?

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Typically St. Valentine’s Day conjures up images of romantisaint valentinesc, lovey-dovey stuff like hearts and flowers, boxes of chocolates, mushy greeting cards, and the like… Well, this wasn’t exactly the case for this holiday’s namesake, Saint Valentine – in fact, there was no romance for this saint! Furthermore, there are actually three potential Valentines that the day commemorates and in all three cases, they were martyred i.e., imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Yikes, not my idea of romantic or happy ending!

Hearts & flowers now...

Hearts & flowers now…

We can agree that Saint Valentine’s Day (also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine) is observed on February 14th of each year.  So, how did our version of Saint Valentine become the Hallmark version characterized by cupid, declarations of love, romantic evenings, and hearts and flowers? Well, it depends on who you read and who you believe since, as with any good story, it gets embellished a bit over the centuries and, as in this case, can take on legendary (i.e. exaggerated) proportions. But, it all makes for a good story, so….

I’ll let you pick your favorite version of the martyred saint, but it seems that  Valentine or Valentius of Rome was an extremely sympathetic priest who defied the Roman Empire by performing weddings for soldiers (prohibited to marry at the time) and ministering to persecuted Christians. For this, he was persecuted and imprisoned.  According to the legend, it was during his incarceration that he performed a miracle, healing the blind daughter of his jailer. Before his execution he wrote a farewell letter to her and signed it “Your Valentine”. Hence (perhaps?) the first Valentine. (I told you it made a good story!)

Since it was very common for the Christian church to adopt pagan festivals, it’s believed that they adopted the Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture as well as to Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome. They conveniently decided to have St. Valentine’s feast day (celebrating Valentine’s death or burial anniversary) around the same date.

saint valentineRegardless of what is truth or legend about St. Valentine, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that courtly love became fashionable and the day took on romantic notions among the likes of Chaucer and his circle. Also, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance (and possibly this is where the notion of love birds made their debut?)

Whatever the case, hearts, cupid, doves, and other expressions of love such as saint valentineflowers and candy, along with hand-made cards known as “valentines”, were not exchanged until the early 1700’s. The first mass-produced valentines were created and sold by Esther Howland, “Mother of the Valentine”, in 1840.

Needless to say, Valentine’s Day has flourished ever since. Commercial greeting cards have largely taken the place of lace, ribbons, and fancy valentines. It’s estimated that approximately 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year and that 85% of them are purchased by women. I wonder what St. Valentine would think of that?

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Send Me a Postcard!

Send Me Flowers…Oh, I Mean Chocolates…Oh, OK, Send Me a Postcard!

Just Comment Below!

 Did you know the origin of Saint Valentine’s Day? How do you celebrate?





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About PostcardZ from Victoria

Wish you were here! I love sharing my passion for travel and insights I've learned along the way. Enjoy my travel tips and inspiration with a lighthearted twist! Join me as we create a forum for sharing experiences and information! Enjoy my newly updated & edited book, "Victoria's Travel TipZ Italian Style!" with MORE great TipZ and then, let's go to Italy together!
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9 Responses to No Flowers or Chocolates for This Saint!

  1. What a fun and interesting read! As always, thanks for sending <3

  2. Always love to hear about the origins of things. You would have thought he would have been saved after curing the blind girl…not sure those Romans had a HEART! We will be sipping Prosecco, nibbling on slutty artichoke spread, Tuscan ragu and mocha custards…perhaps a little toast to St. Valentine with a little Vin Santo! Anche?

  3. Heide says:

    Appreciate the history and post.

  4. First…Happy Valentines Day V! Interesting post too, you know how much I love history! Those Romans were a heartless lot not saving Saint Valentine, he might have performed a few more miracles on their behalf! 85% of the cards are bought by women…does that mean the guys don’t bother for the love of their life? We will be sharing Prosecco, veal shanks on homemade pappardelle and the Valentine’s Day “Hearts” I baked up. Thought I would put in the link. cin cin Victoria!

    • A day late but just as heartfelt – Happy V-Day to YOU & Joe! I’m sure yours as delish. About the cards, I would venture to say that that is typical. My theory is that, as boys/children/adolescents and even adults, the mother or wife got the card and the guy signed it so he never was “trained” or comfortable doing it (not to mention that women are express their feelings a lot more…)
      Anyway, your V-Day repast sounds fantastic!
      Cin cin to you!

  5. Pingback: No Flowers or Chocolates for St. Valentine! | PostcardZ from Victoria

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