Who started St Valentine’s Day?

January 28th 2014
By: Melanie Hollidge

February 14th has long been associated with love and romance –  this year, we’ve found out about the different stories that date back to a number of historical sources.  Nobody really knows which one is the one that the day was actually named after – each of us will have our own preference.
One legend believes that Valentine was a priest in Rome during the 3rd Century.  During that time, Emperor Claudius II believed that the best soldiers were single unmarried men so he banned marriage for the young men.  Valentine then defied Claudius because he believed the law to be so unjust.  He is said to have performed marriage for lovers in secret.  When Claudius found out, he ordered that Valentine was killed.
It is believed that the first written and recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love was by Chaucer in the late 14th Century in ‘Parlement of Foules’ in 1382. 
For years, our writers and poets have used love as a theme for their writing and St Valentine’s Day is often mentioned in stories and plays.  Shakespeare’s Hamlet includes a reference to the day by Ophelia in Act 4.

The poem ‘roses are red’ can be traced back as far as the mid 1500s and a version of the full poem is written in a collection by of English nursery rhymes (Gammer Gurton’s Garland 1784)
“The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.”
Modern day St Valentine’s traditions include celebrating the day by giving cards and gifts to partners and spouses.  With things moving with the times, internet and e-cards have seen a dramatic rise in circulation and use.  The tradition is moving to include good friends and seen as a day of celebrating love for friends as well as lovers.