Valentine’s Day! Yes, we need all the love this year. But have your kids asked, why? Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day? If they are anything like ours, it’s a constant barrage of curiosity, so we’re here to help. A little bit of background on this lovely, sweet holiday:
We celebrate Valentine’s Day every year on February 14. The day holds an almost mythical quality to it, as the exact origin remains shrouded in mystery. However, we do know that the holiday is related to one of at least three Saint Valentines and contains traces of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition (see our Issue Four | Story of an Empire about the ancient Romans here).
One of the most agreed upon legends contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death (and it’s even said he was executed on February 14). Right before he died, Valentine supposedly wrote the first-ever “valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, with whom he’d fallen in love. Later, in the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I declared the day of his death as St. Valentine’s Day.
Here’s an animated video to explain the origins of Valentine’s Day for kids—an easy visual to make sense of the complicated history! Obviously, the holiday has evolved since and steadily gained popularity as a day to celebrate love in all forms.
We thought it would be fun to offer an Honest History twist on Valentine’s Day, so here are our free, printable cards! It’s an easy DIY project for you and your kids to print, cut, and address to say, “You’re so charming!” and “You light up my life!” (You may notice they correspond to our issues—enjoy discovering which ones!)
And just for fun, here are a few did-you-knows about Valentine’s Day:
- The oldest record of a Valentine was a poem written in France by Charles, Duke of Orleans; he wrote his wife when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415
- Valentine’s day steadily gained in popularity through the 19th century—especially once the greeting-card industry was in full swing thanks to the Industrial Revolution's printing press and cheaper postage
- Esther A. Howland is known as the “Mother of the American Valentine”—she is credited for being a brilliant commercial artist and pioneer in the commercialism of a day in the 1850s
- The act of giving flowers for Valentine’s Day became a popular trend during the Victorian Era with red roses symbolizing deep love
- Hallmark began manufacturing Valentine’s Day cards in 1913, and today, on average, 145 million cards are sent each year (and this doesn’t account for classroom-made and distributed cards!)
The day is celebrated similarly, but with its own cultural nuances, around the world! Here’s a glimpse into how other nations spread the love.