Valentine's Day is also known as Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine. This day, observed in many parts of the world, is an occasion when couples celebrate their love by exchanging cards, chocolate, flowers and other gifts.
Just who Saint Valentine was, or why this day was so named, is not entirely clear. There was more than one early Christian martyr and saint by the name of Valentine. Two of them, Saint Valentine of Terni and Saint Valentine of Rome, were executed on 14 February but in different years (in the 3rd and 5th centuries AD respectively). They were also both buried on the Via Flaminia outside Rome but at different locations. The Christian Church honours Saint Valentine on 14 February, though it is not known which Valentine. Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church itself states that: "apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14."
A number of stories sprang up in subsequent years linking Valentine with romantic love, but little is know about the historical facts. The first recorded association of St Valentine's Day with love was in 1381 by the medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, in his poem Parliament of Foules honouring the marriage between King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. Over the centuries, the practice developed first of writing Valentine poems to loved ones on 14 February then of giving and ultimately sending Valentine cards. Today, people also offer flowers, chocolates and other gifts.
feast (noun): a day dedicated to a particular saint; also a large meal
martyr (noun): a person who is killed for their religious beliefs
medieval (adjective): relating to the Middle Ages in Europe (circa 1000-1453)
anonymously (adverb): unidentified; without name
- 3rd century
- 5th century
- 14th century