Valentine’s Day Lore and Legends

Everything you ever wanted to know about the most romantic day of the year, and then some!

February 14 is upon us once again, and lovers, friends, and suitors will be exchanging candy, flowers, and gifts for Valentine’s Day. Why do we celebrate this holiday and who is St. Valentine? Legends abound because the history of this special day is shrouded in mystery, but here are a few possible explanations—and bit of Valentine’s Day folklore.

The Legends of St. Valentine

Valentine's Day is named for St. Valentine.
Saint Valentine

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, so he outlawed marriage for young men, which were his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February around the year 270.

The First Valentine?

According to another legend, Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been the jailor’s daughter 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 used today.

When Did We Start Sending Cards?

The tradition of Valentine’s Day cards did not become widespread in the United States until the 1850s when Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke graduate and native of Worcester, Massachusetts, began mass-producing them. Today, of course, the holiday has become a booming commercial success. Over 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent every year in the U.S. alone.

Valentine’s Day Trivia

Q – According to English tradition, what happens to the first man a woman sees on Valentine’s Day?
A – She will marry him.

Q – What date was the first recorded Valentine sent?
A – 1415, by Charles, Duke of Orleans.

Q – What fruit is also known as the “love apple?”
A – Tomato.

Q – Sailors often scratched or carved designs on bone, tusk, or wood to give as a love token. What was this hobby called?
A – Scrimshaw.

Q – Phenethylamine is the natural chemical of what addictive sweet Valentine treat?
A – Chocolate.

Q – Why do “X”s represent kisses?
A – Our practice of using an “X” grew out of the medieval practice of letting those who could not write mark documents with an “X” to represent their names. This was done in the presence of witnesses, and a kiss was given upon the “X” to show sincerity. The “X” then became synonymous with the kiss in the minds of most people.

Q – What does it mean to a woman when a robin, sparrow, or goldfinch flies overhead on Valentine’s Day?
A – Some people used to believe that if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Do you have a question or an idea for an article? Contact us!


Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sweet article, all were very funny!!

Samantha Gray

There is also a legend that while Valentine was in prison, a tree with large heart-shaped leaves (somewhat like a catalpa or a large lilac) grew near his window. He scratched tiny messages of love and hope on these, signed them “Valentine” and floated them off on the breeze, to be found and read to the comfort of his congregation. Hence, at least according to the legnd, we have heart-shaped valentines.

M.D. Walker

Actually, the history of signing with an “X” is a bit different than what was related in this article. It has only recently, within this century, been thought of as a ‘kiss’. The meaning of “X” goes back a bit further. And like it or not, is established in Christianity. Christ spelled in Greek is “Χριστός”, pronounced “Chi-Rho”. The first letter in Christ looks like an “X”. The second letter resembles a “P”. These two letters together are called “Chi” and “Rho”. As Christianity spread across Europe, people did not recognize the Greek letter rho (looked like a P), so it was eventually dropped.
In the days of the Old West, literally every American knew that the “X” meant Christ. The old cowboys would sign his name with an “X”. Why did he use an X instead of a smiley face or something else? Because everyone in that day knew that the X meant our Lord. By signing the paper with an X, he was swearing an oath before God that he would abide by the terms of the contract he was signing. It was a solemn oath to sign with an X.
I sincerely doubt the cowboy thought of it as a kiss. 😉

John Deadlock

Nice Job Susan. You have so much hidden Talent.. Have a nice Valentines day and you be good to that better half of your. John D.


Thank you for sharing…:-) Happy Valentines Day!!!

Renae Dias

Love this so much, thank you for the article


All I heard was a frog and all i saw was grey …i don’t think i want to know what that means.


I think I saw Robert Redford NOPE that was a dream nuts!

LaVerne Phillips

I saw all 3;what does that mean?

Sheryl Mosley

Hi, Happy Valentines Day Everyone !!! GOD Is LOVE !!! Valentines Day is my Birthday, Another year older, I am Feeling pretty old lately. I was married for 23 yrs. Divorced. Was Blessed with 3 children, Joey, Michael, and Kristina. Now I have 6 grandchildren !!! I am so Blessed. My 2 boys are married. I take care of my Dad w/ Alzheimers. All I want is to Be Happy !!! God Bless Us All !!!


I think I saw a crow. LOL

amanda lewandoski

I hope I see a goldfinch! LOL
Good article!

Sharon Atkinson

I enjoy reading trivia things .They help keep my mind alert and it is interesting things to know

Susan Morrison

Very informative article. The last Q & A made me chuckle! Thanks!

Plan Your Day. Grow Your Life.

Get money-saving tips, weather updates and more! Sign up today.