Every February 14, whether you love it or loathe it, is Valentine’s Day, celebrated throughout the United Unites and elsewhere globally. It is a day shrouded in the colors of red and pink, bouquets of roses and bottles of wine, boxes of chocolate and, for some, hoped-for even smaller boxes of jewelry. It is also, evidently, a day shrouded in historical mystery, as there is disagreement about who precisely this Saint Valentine was. The Catholic Church officially recognizes no less than three saints bearing the name Valentine. The true hero of this holiday may not be precisely known but there appears to be minimal disagreement that, whoever he was, he was a champion of the cause of love.
Others contend that the holiday was initiated as a ploy by the Christian church to undermine a Pagan fertility festival conducted around the ides of the month. Historically, the ritual conveyance of a greeting of love around this time dates to the Middle Ages. The oldest existing written valentine was from the Duke of Orleans to his wife during his imprisonment in the Tower of London in 1415, a romantic gesture indeed.
It is suggested that the tradition took root in America in the early 1700s, with widespread commercialization of the day arising in the mid-1800s. Today, the Greeting Card Association estimates that in the realm of 1 billion Valentine’s cards will be sent annually. Third Street South, with its cozy courtyards, 19th century fountains, beautiful flowers, enticing restaurants and shops full of gifts from tiny to large, is just the sort of place Saint Valentine might visit.