A Brief History of Valentine's Day for Kids

child with valentine
iStock.com/shironosov

Some kids see Valentine’s Day as a chance to gobble up some heart-shaped candies while others don’t care much for the holiday at all (filling out all those Valentines is such a pain!). But for even those hard cases, the history of Valentine’s Day is pretty interesting. Valentine’s Day may be one big mystery to kids, in general, but there are some great stories about its origin. Read on for some neat theories and facts about this love-filled holiday.
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The princess fanatic in your life might find it cool that "Valentine" may have been imprisoned when he fell in love with his jailer's daughter. Before he was put to death, he sent her the world’s first Valentine, signed, of course, with his name. 

Another legend holds that a priest by the name of St. Valentine secretly married couples in love during the third century. The Emperor had forbidden his soldiers from getting married, believing that single soldiers performed better in battle. St. Valentine disagreed, and so he married couples in secret.

The more likely, though less star-crossed, reason for the holiday goes all the way back to the ancient Roman holiday called Lupercalia. The festival honored Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage.

Here are a few other Valentine's Day facts your kids might enjoy:

  • Instead of sending cards to everyone, in the Middle Ages, young people drew names from a bowl. They pinned the other person’s name to their sleeve for one week to show everyone who their Valentine was. Imagine, an entire week with one Valentine -- who you may or may not even have a crush on!
  • The biggest Valentine ever given was the Taj Mahal in India. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built it as a memorial to his wife. 
  • Doctors in the 1880s prescribed chocolate to patients to help soothe their broken hearts.
  • Teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards each year -- but come on, they have an unfair advantage! 
  • Cupid is a symbol of Valentine’s Day because he was the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Those cute little arrows he holds were actually magical arrows, believed to make those he shot fall in love.
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