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Photo: Al Barry (Getty Images) It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Sometimes called “Oh, shit, I forgot again” Day, the annual Feb. 14 celebration of love is marked by candy, greeting cards, and difficult-to-obtain dinner reservations, but where did Valentine’s Day come from? Why do we celebrate it? Who said we have to give people candy? What does it all mean ? I’ll answer all those questions and more below. The surprisingly long history of Valentine’s Day Valentine’s Day is not a modern, created-by-Hallmark-and-Big-Candy holiday. The first Valentine’s Day was in 496 AD, when Pope Gelasius I established a feast day to honor the martyr date of Saint Valentine of Rome. By the Middle Ages, the modern traditions of Valentine’s Day—love, poetry, gifts—were already in place. The real Saint Valentine The true story of the Saint Valentine is mostly lost to time. There were apparently three early Christians named “Valentine” who were martyred by Romans, but we don’t know the story of any of these early Valentine’s lives. Firsthand accounts were probably destroyed during the Diocletianic Persecution in the early fourth century. Over the years, myths and legends of Saint Valentine sprang up—he supposedly was known for secretly performing Christian marriages for Roman troops. Or he was imprisoned in Rome, but restored his jailer’s daughter’s sight while awaiting his execution, sending her a card that ended, “From your Valentine.” These tales are probably holiday retcon, made up at later dates to pretend it all made sense from the beginning. As the […]