A Valentine’s Day history

Published 12:32 pm Thursday, February 14, 2019

Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

It always excites me when our newspaper comes out on a holiday and I am able to have a “themed” column for the week. Today, we celebrate Valentine’s Day. A holiday some of us enjoy and others fear.

As I sat and thought about what direction to take with my column, I wondered how Valentine’s Day even got started. In my search to enlighten myself, I figured I was probably not the only one who knew little about the origins of this holiday.

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According to History.com, even though the first Valentine was sent in the 1400s, America did not start celebrating the holiday until the early 1700s.

History argues exactly who the holiday is named after as well. Some believe the holiday’s name is derived from the Catholic Church who recognizes three different saints named Valentine.

One legend concludes Valentine was a priest, who fought against the Emperor Claudius II who decided all single men should be soldiers and not married. Valentine performed marriages in secret for lovers and was eventually put to death by Claudius.

Other legends suggest Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape Roman prisons where they were beaten and tortured.

For some, Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting while in jail after he fell in love with the jailor’s daughter.

This legend may not be far off from the truth, as history’s first official account of a valentine was actually sent in 1415 by Charles Duke of Orleans while imprisoned in the Tower of London. He wrote to his wife, whom he never saw again before she died.

In his valentine, he wrote: “My very gentle Valentine, since for me you were born too soon, and I for you was born too late, God forgives him who has estranged. Me from you for the whole year, I am already sick with love, my very gentle Valentine.”

History calls the mother of the valentine Esther A. Howland, who in 1840 made very elaborate creations with lace, ribbons and colorful pictures.

Today, it is estimated that 145 million Valentines are sent every February. That number makes Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday after Christmas for the entire year. Not only that, but it is also estimated that women send the most valentines, 85 percent of them actually.

No surprise there!

My hope for Jessamine County today of all days is you can say, “I have found the one whom my soul craves.” Solomon 3:4.

From me to you, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Brittany Fuller is the community editor of The Jessamine Journal and Jessamine Life magazine. She can be reached at brittany.fuller@jessaminejournal.com.