Tuesday, February 14th, is Valentines Day. However, it is not always celebrated on February 14th in other parts of the world and cultures. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St. Valentine is recognized on July 6. In addition, the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine on July 30 (it has more than one Valentine). For our purposes today we’ll stay with February 14th.
Have you ever wondered, or asked yourself, “How did we get this holiday? What is the history of Valentine’s Day, and why do we celebrate it in America?
Here is a brief history of Valentines Day and the man Valentine. Why is Valentines Day expressed in the current celebration of yummy chocolates, lovely cards, and sparkling engagement rings? What is the real story behind such a highly-retailed celebration?
Some say the day is named after a bishop named Valentine, who was stationed in the Roman Empire when Claudius II was the Emperor.
Claudius thought that unmarried men made better soldiers, so he decided to make it a law that young men could not marry. Around 270 A.D., Valentine took pity on the ostracized soldiers who were not permitted to marry or see their sweethearts.
He became an advocate of these young lovers and began to perform secret marriages. He was soon found out and jailed. Emperor Claudius II attempted to convert Valentine to worship the Roman gods, but Valentine refused. Instead, he tried to convert Claudius to Christianity. Unsuccessful, Valentine was sentenced to be executed on February 24, 270.
Another version of the history of Valentines Day tells that Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. Just before his death, he sent her a note and signed it “from your Valentine.”
An aura of romance surrounded his demise and those who knew about it spread the tale. Bishop Valentine became Saint Valentine with his fame extending to England and France.
After his death, Valentine became known a “Patron Saint” (special guardian or ‘sponsor’). Some considered him the spiritual overseer of an annual festival in which young Romans would distribute cards of affection to those they wished to formally see. This festival was held each February 14. There are Valentine cards in museums worldwide that date back to 1415.
February has been the month to celebrate love ever since the Middle Ages.