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What is the history of St. Valentine's Day?

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Quick Answer

Poets of the Middle Ages connected the feast day of St. Valentine with love, drawing from a tradition of birds finding mates around that time of year. Because of this, lovers looked upon this day as a day for exchanging love letters and tokens, a tradition which continues today.

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Full Answer

February 14th was the feast date of at least three different martyrs named St. Valentine, and, in the Middle Ages, over fifty St. Valentines were celebrated over the course of the year. One of these, a Roman priest, has inspired several legends, all of which arose long after his death. According to one, he was sentenced to death in pagan Rome for encouraging young people to marry within the Christian Church. Before his execution, the story goes, he sent a letter to a young woman whom he had cured of blindness, signing the missive "from your Valentine."

In 1381, Geoffrey Chaucer made the first recorded connection between St. Valentine's Day and love in his poem "The Parliament of Fowls," identifying the day as the time when "every foul cometh ther to choose his mate." French and English writers of the 14th and 15th centuries also allude to the day as one reserved for lovers. Manufactured Valentine's Day cards first appeared in England in the 1800s, and by 1835, over 60,000 Valentine's Day cards were being sent in England alone.

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