The reason behind Valentines Day celebration dates back to the Roman Empire. During the 3rd century, Rome was engaged in many unpopular wars, and Emperor Claudius II was having trouble persuading soldiers to join his military. He believed this was due to men's attachments to their lovers or families so he outlawed all marriages in Rome.
Enter St. Valentine, a Roman priest.
Valentine thought the Emperor's decree was unjust and began performing secret marriages for young lovers. When his actions were finally discovered, he was imprisoned.
While in prison, Valentine supposedly fell in love with his jailer's daughter. Before his death, it is said that he wrote her a letter, which he signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is used today. This is considered the first valentine. Click here for the source of this information.
In the 14th century Valentine's Day began to be celebrated with loved ones and a large feast was organized to mark the day. Valentine greetings were said or sung, but by the 15th Century beginning to be put into writing. In 16th century began the custom of exchanging gifts between lovers with the passing of paper Valentine. In Great Britain, Valentine's Day celebrations took off around the 17th century. The oldest known valentine still in existence today is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The valentine is now part of a collection in the British library in London, England.
Initially, valentines were usually handmade and given anonymously. During the 1800s much larger hand-painted copperplates molded in the shape of hearts replaced paper e-cards. In later years, the copperplates gradually gave way to woodcuts and carvings and lithographs. By the middle of the 18th century, Valentine's Day become popular amongst the masses and it became a common tradition for all social classes to secretly exchange small tokens of lover or handwritten love notes called Valentine. Despite the existence of the pre-printed card, the majority of valentines were one of a kind and made by hand. Consequently, few exist today.By the middle of the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small gifts or handwritten notes on that day.
By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters. Cheaper postage rates helped contribute to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings.