"Did Hallmark invent Valentine's Day to sell greeting cards?" is the question I had in my mind when I started researching this topic. Hallmark started mass producing Valentine's cards in 1916, but the history of the day dates back to third century Rome.
Now the history of these events are varied as lots of documents were lost due to persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire known as the Diocletianic Persecution. But here's what I took away from learning about Emperor Claudius Gothicus, aka Claudius the Cruel.
In one version of the story, Valentine is executed February 14, leaving behind a love letter signed "From Your Valentine." Hence the Valentine's Day card tradition.
In a further complicated version of the story, the jailer's daughter is blind. Valentine writes his love letter using ink from a violet he squeezed. The ink is said to have healed her blindness. They had one beautiful day together before he was clubbed to death by the Roman executioners.
In yet another version, Valentine does not fall in love with the daughter, but simply prays over her at the request of the jailer. He succeeds in healing her blindness.
As mentioned previously, none of these stories can be firmly rooted in fact. John M. Manly said it best, I think, that the "cult of Saint Valentine appears to have existed as a folk custom from very remote antiquity."
Well to find out, join us next time when we'll learn about Pope Gelasius's alleged cover up of Lupercalia.