How did Valentine's Day, one of our most popular holidays, begin? It started in ancient Rome when a kind physician named Valentine took an interest in a young blind girl, writes Robert Sabuda, author of the book Saint Valentine.
With his healing skill and his deep faith he restored her sight. What we now call Valentine's Day began when he sent the little girl a secret message, which she received after the Christian martyr was executed.
Valentine's Day, also known as Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is a celebration observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world.
St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14, and added to later martyrologies.
The popular hagiographical account that Sabuda writes about states that Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell. Saint Valentine's Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church.
The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine's Day, albeit on July 6 and July 30, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni).
The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). In Europe, Saint Valentine's Keys are given to lovers "as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart", as well as to children, in order to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine's Malady).
For this tale rich in sentiment, Sabuda, a master illustrator has created exquisite paper mosaics to suggest early Christian art that resonates with both subtlety and power.
Valentine's Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.