Valentine's Day

History of Valentine’s Day

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. Charles M. Schulz

We’ve barely lugged all the holiday trappings back to wherever they were before Thanksgiving. Now we’re surrounded with reminders to get something (preferably something chocolate) for Valentine’s Day. How did a Christian martyr from the 3rd Century end up being used to market flowers, candy, romance-themed movies and cards?

There are several St. Valentine’s for whom this annual shop-for-your-sweetheart-or-wish-you-had occasion is likely named. Valentine Number One was a priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. He was executed on February 14, around the year 278 A.D.

A Ruthless Roman Emperor

Rome was engaged in a variety of bloody campaigns during that era. Emperor Claudius needed a large, strong army. However, he had a recruiting problem. Potential soldiers weren’t eager to sign up for his military campaigns. Claudius concluded the problem was Roman men preferred being home with their wives and children to fighting his seemingly endless battles. Not to be deterred, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements.

Valentine thought that decree unjust and continued performing marriages for couples in secret. When Claudius learned of this, he ordered Valentine arrested and beaten to death and then beheaded. A legend evolved that while in jail, this Valentine left a note for his friend, the jailer’s daughter. According to the legend, he signed the note, “From Your Valentine.” It’s a sweet legend, with no verifiable evidence to prove or disprove it.

According to Catholic Encyclopedia, there are three St. Valentines, all martyred on February 14: this one; a bishop in modern Terni, Italy; and another in the Roman province of Africa.

From Martyrdom to Romance-themed Gifts

Regardless of which St. Valentine is behind the holiday, history is vague on how the martyrdom of some St. Valentine got connected to this annual prove-your-love holiday. One theory is that the February 14 date is close to the annual Feast of Lupercalia, an annual pagan festival of love. At these festivals young women put their names in a box and young men drew out a name. In the 5thCentury Pope Gelasius put an end to the festival and set aside February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day. Over time the day was set aside to exchange love messages, poems and simple gifts such as flowers.

Some information for this blog comes from an article by Elizabeth Hanes on  the History website.

Love That Transforms Lives

Regardless of which historical Valentine is the one behind this annual tradition, February 14 is now another well-established gift-giving occasion. This is good for the economy, but there are other ways people express their love for others. This month I’ll introduce you to a three such people.

Dr. Temple Grandin has made a name for herself in both cattle raising circles and among those who deal with autism. None of her many accomplishments would have been possible were it not for her mother’s tenacious love that would not give up on her autistic little girl.

When emergency room physician Dr. Hal and his wife, Julie, learned their pre-adolescent son, Jeffrey, would eventually become legally blind, they decided to focus on what he could still do. That is how Art From The Heart was born.

Thomas Edison was a grade school drop out. His teacher predicted he’d never amount to anything. His mother disagreed. Her determination led him to his many inventions that benefit all of us every day.


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