If you are like me, you assumed that Valentine’s Day is just a Hallmark holiday. The Hallmarkiest of holidays at that. However, like most things that take a turn for the commercialized, there is an origin story* behind this lover’s festival. It does not involve a flying cherub connecting someone to their true love. It does involve……...MURDER.
Oh boy. The foreshadowing.
Back in the 200’s, Emperor Claudius II ruled the Roman empire, during which Christians were routinely prosecuted. Like any would-be saint worth his muster, Valentine refused to denounce his belief in Christianity when personally confronted by Ol’ Claud the Second, choosing instead to try to convert him from Paganism to Christianity. This did not work out. He was condemned to death.
While on Death Row, he befriended the jailer Asterius and the jailer's daughter, Julia. Though Saint V had failed to convert Claudius, Valentinedidconvert Asterius, Julia, and the jailer’s 42 member household (family and servants), who were then baptized. And the cherry on top - he cured Julia’s blindness. So we’ve got our hero/martyr and our love interest...let’s bring it on home.
Just before he was to be executed, Valentine sent Julia a card and signed it “Your Valentine.”
But how did this sweet story turn into the billion dollar market it is today? In the 1840’s, an American newspaper called The Public Ledger (a Philadelphia daily) started a campaign for Valentine’s Day as people needed “more soul-play and less head-work”, and helped transform the word ‘valentine’ from meaning a person to also symbolizing cards and goods that could be exchanged. From there, the marketing gods that be just kept churning out Valentine’s Day ads and products.
So though it has become a very commercialized holiday, it does have an interesting and heartfelt backstory. And we here at Brightbox Gifts love any reason to send gifts and hope your VDay is filled with love!
*There are a few different stories and variations of the story of Valentine.