Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14 every year around the world, is actually based on a true story. The Catholic Church recognizes several different saints named Valentinus. The saint celebrated on Valentine’s Day is officially known as St. Valentine to differentiate him from other “Valentines.”
“Valentinus” is derived from the Latin word for worthy, strong or powerful. Because of this, “Valentinus” became a popular name for several martyrs between the second and eighth centuries A.D. The official list of Catholic martyrs recognizes approximately a dozen with name of Valentine or some type of variation. One was even a Pope.
In the Catholic Church, saints are held to have a range of spiritual responsibilities. Believers ask St. Valentine to watch over the lives of lovers. He is also the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages.
Some credit Geoffrey Chaucer, the medieval English poet, with inventing the Valentine’s Day that people celebrate today. In around 1375, Chaucer’s poem “Parliament of Foules” spoke about a tradition of love in association with the celebration of the St. Valentine’s Day feast. Before this work, there were no known records of Valentine’s Day.
The United States, Canada, Mexico, France, Australia, and the United Kingdom all celebrate Valentine's Day. Americans began exchanging Valentine’s Day cards in the early 1700s when Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced cards. She is known as the “Mother of the Valentine.”