Lovers of love and all things romantic take Valentine’s day very seriously. Whether they bestow or receive, chocolate, flowers, cards, love notes, (word for the wise -jewelry’s always good too) it is certainly a day for lovers to celebrate.
Valentine’s day is an eclectic blend of customs and traditions brought through time. No one really knows it’s true origins, however there are a few strong stories to sweep your heart away.
The earliest records of Valentine’s Day stretch back to the 1300’s when several priests had similar monikers, however, the best known one lived in Rome in the third century. This was a time when love was in the dark ages and Christians were forbidden to worship as they liked. The priest named Valentine stood strong in his beliefs and refused to stop preaching Christianity and Christ like love. He was executed on February 14th, for his disobedience. After his death he was proclaimed a saint. That my friends is one theory of where Valentines day stems from. (Long stems on those roses please)
According to another legend, a young priest named Valentine believed in love so much, that he secretly married couples despite Emperor Claudius II proclamation that young men could not marry. Claudius desperately needed an army and believed that men made more dedicated soldiers if they did not have families. This Valentine was eventually imprisoned and beheaded for his disobedience. Many believe Valentine’s day is in remembrance of this young rebel who died for his belief in love.
Another story tells of a priest who loved children and gave them flowers from his garden. He too was imprisoned because he refused to pray to the Roman gods. Bouquets of flowers, with love notes attached, were thrown through the prison bars to him from the loyal children who missed him.
During the years he was in prison, he fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter. She was devoted in caring for him and brought him food and messages while trying to make his life behind bars more comfortable.
Eventually, Valentine was taken before the Emperor Claudius II who was touched by his gentle manner. The Emperor offered Valentine his freedom if he would give up Christianity. Of course, Valentine refused. Not only did he refuse, but he tried to convert Claudius. Sadly, the priest was sent back to jail for his final days.
While he was awaiting his fatal sentence, his faith was so strong that he continued to pray every day for the sight of the jailer’s daughter to be restored. He wrote her a final farewell message of love and signed it “from your Valentine”. She was able to read the message herself as her sight was returned, however, Valentine was still beheaded on Feb. 14.
It is possible that these three different Valentines were one in the same, but we just don’t know.
Long before the Romans executed rebel priests who lived for love, they honoured a god named Lupercus. As the god of herds and crops, the Romans believed Lupercus protected their flocks and kept the animals fertile. On the eve of the celebratory day, Feb. 15, young women would write their name on a piece of paper and place it into a bowl. Each young man would draw a name from this lottery and the young lady would become his partner.
Through the years the Christian Church abolished pagan holidays, like Lupercalia, but people still enjoyed the festivities. Lupercalia continued until the 5th century when it was renamed to St. Valentines day and bumped up a day in the calendar to Feb. 14.
The first formal messages or valentines became popular in the 1500’s. By the 1700’s commercially printed cards were being used and by the 1800’s valentines cards were printed in the U.S.A. Still today the ancient Romans are influencing how we look on this holiday of love. It may no longer be an execution by beheading, but now a little less bloody with an arrow through the heart from the Roman god of love, Cupid.
Whatever origins of Valentine’s day you chose to believe, believe that you are worthy of love and share the sentiment with someone special.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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