History of Valentine's Day and Martyr Valentine It's Named After, Who Was He?

Stores have had aisles lined with Valentine's Day candies and cards for weeks as the holiday approached but the history of the holiday can get lost in the sea of hearts and flowers.

While some assume the day is a corporate holiday created only for increasing candy, flower and card sales it actually has roots steeped deep in history. Exactly what that history is has been a little bit lost over centuries but there are several stories about a Valentine and his actions that likely led to the creation and celebration for the holiday all those years ago.

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Merchandise for Valentine's Day is on display at a supermarket in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 2018. Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

The holiday that's meant to celebrate romance and significant others originated with valentine's or messages of love sometime in the 1500s, according to Britannica. Formal commercially-made cards came about roughly 200 years later in the 1700s.

The name for the holiday, Valentine, comes from the one of a few martyrs. The legends of the holiday vary but one says that before Valentine was executed he wrote a letter and signed it, "Your Valentine." Another story says the holiday comes from Saint Valentine a bishop in Terni and another says Valentine secretly married couples to keep the husbands from going to war, according to Britannica.

Their executions are believed to have happened on February 14 sometime between 269 and 280 and thus it was deemed Valentine's feast day. He's seen as the patron saint of love, happy marriage and young people, according to Catholic.org. He was removed from the General Roman Calendar though 50 years ago due to how little is actually known about him.

Another idea about the origin of the holiday comes from the fact that birds pair in the month of February.

It's unclear which one or combination of Valentines the holiday is based on but the holiday has come to be know as a celebration of love that includes gifts and grand gestures. It's also become an acceptable holiday to give valentines to friends and family to show them love as well.

Exchanging valentines as part of the holiday started early and is now happens in schools, offices and between friends and romantic partners. Other spinoff holidays have also come from the original Valentine's Day like Galentine's Day, popularized by the television show Parks and Recreation, and Single's Awareness Day, or SAD.​