There is conflicting history of the origin of Valentine's Day, but the common thread among them all is that it was begun by a martyred patron saint, Valentinus, or Valentine.
One story says that Valentine defied Claudius Caesar by continuing to perform marriages for young couples in secret. Claudius had outlawed marriage for young men because he wanted to draft them into the army. Another story states that he was killed for helping Christians escape Roman prisons where they were tortured and killed.
A legend states that Valentine sent the very first Valentine card to a jailor's daughter he fell in love with while in prison. He signed it, "From your Valentine." This expression is still used today.
Some people think that Valentine's Day was celebrated in the middle of February to remember the anniversary of Valentine's death around 270 A.D. It is also possible the Catholic Church tried to 'Christianize' the pagan festival called Lupercalla. Lupercalla was a festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. In the early days of the festival, houses were cleaned and then salt and wheat was sprinkled on the floors. Sometimes animals were sacrificed. Late in the day all the young women in the area would place their names in an urn. Later, the area's bachelors would pick a name out of the urn to be paired up for marriage.
Pope Gelasius officially declared February 14 as St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The pagan system of marriage was outlawed and in time became a day of romance. Valentine's Day first became popular in Great Britain in the 17th century. Friends and lovers exchanged notes and tokens of affection. Later, printed card replaced the notes. The oldest Valentine in existence is a poem by Duke Charles of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned.
In 1644, Bishop Saint Valentine was declared the patron saint of Terni, Italy. They dedicated him one day out of the year. Every February 14th, Terni citizens hold a feast around the Basilica in town. (see picture on the right)
The body of Saint Valentine is still at Terni where it can be seen by tourists. He was beheaded on February 14 on Via Flaminia Road at night in order to avoid a riot.
Today, around one billion Valentine's Day cards are exchanged with 85% of them by women. However, men outspend women many times over on this day because they buy flowers, chocolate, and many other items.
Not all people or religions celebrate Valentines Day. In fact, there are some that revile the holiday and protest it every year. In India, activists of the right-wing Hindu organization the Shiv Sena posed in front of a burning placard during a demonstration denouncing Valentine's Day in Amritsar on February 13, 2012. See below:
Probably the most frustrating thing for an art teacher is the fact that teachers and administrators frequently will ask the art teacher to have the kids make hearts or other uncreative items on Valentines Day. Instead of doing them in their own classrooms, they expect the art teacher to spend the time doing this. One of the objectives of this page is to provide some resources so that you can make your Valentines Day lessons a little more creative.
Thanks to India art teacher Kamla Ravikumar for the image above. See another image here.
Some of the lessons below incorporate art with other subject areas. These lessons are for all subject areas.
Valentine's Day (Archive) - with activities, lessons, history, games, and more.
Valentines Activity and Craft Books
Crafts for Valentine's Day - A treasury of fun holiday crafts, gifts, cards, and decorations can help children turn an ordinary Valentine's day into a special, heart-filled occasion.
Peanuts Valentine Craft Kit - This craft kit includes everything you need to make your own valentines: 24 Peanuts postcards to fill out and decorate, 2 full-color sheets of valentine stickers, plus a 32-page storybook adaptation of the classic television special and home video Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.
Saint Valentine - How did Valentine's Day, one of our most popular holidays, begin? For this tale rich in sentiment, master illustrator Robert Sabuda has created exquisite paper mosaics to suggest early Christian art that resonates with both subtlety and power.