Whenever we mention Valentine’s Day, we think about happiness and celebration of the love that we might have for someone. It is definitely a day that is supposed to be glamorous and it is a great thing to see that right now since its history is marked by a lot of sadness.
While virtually everyone knows Valentine’s Day, few know the man behind it, the actual Saint Valentine. That is what we will stay focused on in the following paragraphs. Good old St. Valentine had a very sad history but it did eventually end up inspiring one of the most appreciated holidays in the world.
The Confusion Behind Saint Valentine
Before we actually get to talk about St. Valentine, we should mention the fact that in the Catholic Encyclopedia we can read about 3 Saint Valentines, all having a connection with the 14th of February. One of them can be dismissed in correlation with Valentine’s Day but the other two can both be associated with the love celebration.
The first Valentine was a Roman priest. The second one was a bishop in Interamna. Both of them were buried outside Rome, at different distances on Via Flamania. While there are differences between the two, it is possible that history refers to the exact same person, the one that we now know as Saint Valentine. That is because Bishop Valentine was imprisoned on February the 14th, 273 and the legends of Valentine, the priest, also seems to have had the same fate. It is unclear who appears in the Golden Legend that was the first step towards Valentine’s Day but it seems that more specialists lean towards the idea that the two St. Valentines mentioned were actually the same person.
The Story Of St. Valentine – In Brief
The most accepted version is that of the Roman Priest. Valentine was one during the reign of Claudias, a Roman emperor that basically persecuted the entire church. What was of particular importance to the eventual appearance of Valentine’s Day was an edict saying that marriage was not allowed between younger people. That was because Claudias had this belief that the unmarried soldier was far superior in combat.
Although at that point in time polygamy was very common, a lot of the young people were drawn towards Christianity. The Christian Church always saw marriage as sacred and something that should be encouraged.
St. Valentine was all about allowing people to get married and he is said to have done so in secret, inside the Christian church. As you surely expected, Valentine was caught. He was imprisoned, then tortured and then executed in 269. His death was particularly brutal. He was first beaten, then stoned and then decapitated.
Not much is known about the actual life of the priest. However, different legends appeared about his time in prison and his death. Some legends say that he was killed because he tried to change Claudias to Christianity while others claim that he was simply trialed because of braking the edict. No matter what was true or not, what is interesting is the story of how the expression “from your Valentine” appeared.
From Your Valentine
The inspiration for today’s Valentine’s Day is said to have appeared because of St. Valentine’s final words, written in a note to the daughter of Asterius, one of judges in the trial. The letter was signed “your Valentine”. It is said that Valentine fell in love with Asterius’ daughter, which was blind. After his death, the girl regained her sight. Isn’t that something that sounds a lot like many modern love stories?
Valentine eventually became the patron of the lovers and his death was seen as that of a martyr. Today we do not talk about his life so much and we certainly do not mention his death since that violence should not be associated with Valentine’s Day.
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parament Of Foules
We cannot say exactly when Valentine’s Day appeared but the first ever association between romantic love and Valentine’s Day came in Chaucer’s work. The English translation of the mention is:
“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
According to historians, February 14th could not have been the day that Chaucer was referring to. February 23rd is a better bet as it is the time when birds start to nest and mate in England. No matter what the case may be, what is interesting is that Parliament of Foules is a writing that includes various different traditions that did not actually exist till then.
The Modern Valentine Day’s Cards
The first appearance of the Valentine Day’s cards took place in 1797. A series of suggested verses were published and designed for those young lovers that simply couldn’t express their feelings properly. We thus had cards and thanks to low postal rates, so many ended up exchanging them. This is also when anonymity came into play as those that sent the cards could have simply not signed them.
In USA we saw the first ever mass produced cards in 1847. Esther Howland received such a card from one of his father’s business associates and loved the idea so much that she started importing floral decorations and paper lace from England.
It is hard to argue with the fact that the internet is what made Valentine’s Day the modern phenomenon it is today. However, a lot of people criticize it as being transformed into a holiday that is only meant to make money for the big corporations.
St Valentine’s Day Is Celebrated All Around The World!
The story of the life of one Christian priest eventually transformed into a worldwide phenomenon. As it was already mentioned, the majority of people from all around the world knows about Valentine’s Day and does celebrate it one way or the other. While there are also people that hate it, we need to recognize the fact that celebrating love is always great and we should do this more often.