Ah yes, Valentine’s Day. A day to express affection for loved ones with greetings and gifts. It has been around for a long time but its origin remains a bit of a mystery.
Does it date back to Lupercalia, a Roman festival to ward off evil spirits and infertility? That holiday was banned in the fifth century. Valentinus (from the Latin “valens”, meaning to be in good health) was a common name in ancient Roman times.
The origin I hear most often is that it comes from a priest named Valentine who was martyred circa 270 CE by emperor Claudius II. According to legend, the priest signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter who he had fallen in love with during his captivity.
There is also Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop who secretly married couples to spare husbands from war. This tradition was spread by the Benedictines, the first guardians of the basilica dedicated to the saint in Terni, through their monasteries, first in Italy and then in France and England.