Every February across the country we exchange candy, flowers, and gifts all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? Mystery shrouds the history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint. We do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it now, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Claudius discovered Valentine’s actions, He ordered Valentine be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine attempted to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, which led to his death.
A Prison Lover
According to another legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself while in prison. Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still used today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
So go and celebrate this day of romance and love just as you please.
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!