Valentine's Day
A couple takes a selfie as they stand next to a heart-shaped paper flower decoration at flower market on Valentine's Day in Islamabad, Feb.14, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Valentine’s Day is considered to be the most romantic day of the year. It’s a time when people will shower the ones they love with heartfelt cards, dozens of flowers, chocolates and sweet treats. In fact, more than 114 million cards are exchanged each year during the holiday, which falls on Feb. 14, according to Hallmark.

Although Valentine’s Day is a favorite for many people (who doesn’t like being showered with love and affection for a whole day?) some folks don’t actually know the reason why the holiday is celebrated or the person behind the day of love, Saint Valentine.

The tradition of Valentine’s Day, which was first recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, dates back as far as A.D. 270 as an attempt to commemorate Saint Valentine’s death. Legend has it that the Roman priest served the church during the third century and was a martyr for love during the era of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius, who believed single men made better soldiers, made a decree outlawing young men from marrying and Valentine, who considered the emperor’s ruling an injustice, allegedly performed marriages between young men and women in secret, according to After learning of Valentine’s actions, Claudius ordered the priest to be killed.

There are other stories regarding the origin of Valentine’s martyrdom, which suggest he was killed for helping Christians escape Roman prisons. While enduring his own imprisonment, rumor has it that Valentine fell in love with a young girl, whom he sent a letter to just days before his death signed, “From your Valentine,” an expression that is often used in Valentine’s Day cards today.

The decision to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the middle of February didn’t come until the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius ruled the Roman festival, Lupercalia, “un-Christian.” The pagan celebration was dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, and the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. However, in an attempt to Christianize the festival, Gelasius deemed Feb. 14 as Valentine’s Day.

It wasn’t until the Middle Ages when the holiday became associated with the idea of love and romance, which was also inspired by people in France and England who believed the beginning of birds’ mating season was each year on Feb. 14.

Valentine’s Day greetings didn’t become a popular way to celebrate the holiday until the 1400’s. The oldest Valentine’s Day greeting, which now sits in the British Library in London, was written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife during his imprisonment in the Tower of London not long after he was captured at the Battle of Agincourt. The holiday wasn’t celebrated in the U.S. until around the 17th century, and it wasn’t until the 18th century when it became common for friends and lovers to exchange notes, cards and sweets on the holiday.