That Valentine's day originated in Europe seems to be a commonly held belief, but the details as to the origins of this day are somewhat obscure. Most people believe it is the day of the Roman priest St Valentinus, who lived in the Third Century after Christ. He looked after the elderly, the ill and needy, and legend has it, married Christians. This last act is what got Emperor Claudius II upset. He had the priest tortured and eventually he was beheaded on the 14th of February. Hence the day is known as Valentine's day.
Two English eighteenth-century antiquarians have instead proposed that Valentine's Day was created by priests and monks as an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, a feast honouring the god of fertility.
The oldest known Valentine's note still in existence today is
..a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.
In Great Britain, Valentine's day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. Friends and lovers exchanged notes as a token of their affection. It is believed that the tradition to write these cards anonymous started around this time in Victorian England, where direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged.
By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology.
The Netherlands started the tradition of sending Valentine's cards very late, about ten years ago, which is much later than its surrounding countries. However, the first Valentine's campaign took place in 1949, when the Dutch export of flowers was doing great but sales among the Dutch themselves was not. Hence the National Organisation for Florists proposed to introduce Valentine's day or flower day in the Netherlands. To promote the day the organisation would award people who had done something exceptional for society with a bouquet of Valentine's day flowers. This way the organisation hoped to give the day an extra 'idealistic' dimension and inspire others to do the same.
Indeed, in the Netherlands, the day was initially celebrated as a day of friendship, where special people or organisations were thanked with flowers for exceptional activities.
In the last ten years, the day has become celebrated by many more people. Now the Dutch send million of cards around this day. Especially younger people in the bigger cities do this. Lately small Valentine's ads are popular, as well as greetings through the internet.
For all those people, MyHeritage is a great way to send your greetings!
Also, for all those sending flowers to people in the UK, don't forget our great discount on Valentine's presents.