History of Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day

Every February 14th, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine.

Who was St. Valentine and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery.

February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains elements of both the Christian and the ancient Roman traditions.

One legend claims that Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl, who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression that is still in use today.

The stories about Valentine emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

In the seventeenth century, Valentine’s Day began to be celebrated in Great Britain. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology.

Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Americans began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland became known as the Mother of the Valentine and made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap”.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women.

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

History of the Calendar

Calendar

The calendar was created so we can determine how many days until a certain event takes place or how long since something happened.

The earliest calendars were strongly influenced by the geographical location of the people who made them. In colder countries, the concept of the year was determined by the end of winter. But in warmer countries, where the seasons are less pronounced, the Moon became the basic unit for time.

Most of the oldest calendars were lunar calendars, based on the time interval from one new moon to the next a so-called lunation.

The Egyptian Calendar
The ancient Egyptians used a calendar with 12 months of 30 days each, for a total of 360 days per year. About 4000 B.C. the Egyptians added five extra days at the end of every year to bring it more into line with the solar year.

These five days became a festival because it was thought to be unlucky to work during that time.

The Egyptians had calculated that the solar year was actually closer to 365 1/4 days and they let the one-quarter day accumulate. After 1,460 solar years, 1461 Egyptian years had passed. This means that as the years passed, the Egyptian months fell out of sync with the seasons, so that the summer months eventually fell during winter. Only once every 1,460 years did their calendar year coincide precisely with the solar year.

In addition to the civic calendar, the Egyptians also had a religious calendar that was more closely linked with agricultural cycles and the movements of the stars.

Lunar Calendars
During antiquity, the lunar calendar was based on a 19-year period, with 7 of these 19 years having 13 months. In all, the period contained 235 months. Even the 19-year period required adjustment, but it became the basis of the calendars of the ancient Chinese, Babylonians, Greeks, and Jews.

This same calendar was also used by the Arabs, but Muhammad later forbade shifting from 12 months to 13 months, so that the Islamic calendar, even today, has a lunar year of 354 days. As a result, the months of the Islamic calendar, as well as the Islamic religious festivals, migrate through all the seasons of the year.