On February 14th each year, old and young lovers alike engage in various forms of romantic exchanges with one another. This gesture could be a gift of flowers, chocolates, jewelry or other expensive gifts or meals out at their favorite, fancy place — all in the name of St. Valentine.
So, at the risk of being called unromantic, what if I told you that our modern-day holiday or tradition is nothing but a total fiction of reality? In fact, several historical records indicate that St. Valentine was neither a lover nor a preacher of love. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical event held by early Christians to celebrate martyrs that were beheaded in the third century. How’s that for romantic?
Interestingly, ancient journals show that there were two or maybe even three St. Valentines, not just one, that lost their lives on February 14th. Two of them were beheaded around 269-270 A.D, during the reign of Emperor Claudius Gothicus in Rome, and this period was famous for the persecution and killings of Christians.
The Catholic institution believes that one certain Valentine was a priest in Rome during the Third Century, which was also during the reign of a tyrant named Emperor Claudius II who, after observing that single men soldiers were better than those with families, abolished marriage for young males. This abolishment was seen as unjust by Valentine, who defied Claudius and continued to secretly hold marriages for young lovers. When the Emperor found out about Valentine’s actions, he sentenced Valentine to death by beheading. Other scholars insist that it was Valentine of Terni, a bishop who truly represents the holiday. Interestingly, he was also decapitated by Claudius II near Rome.
The third Valentine may have been murdered while trying to assist Christians to escape from Roman prisons, where they were handed inhuman treatment and torture.
So, with beheadings and murders, how did it become a romantic holiday?
Many believe Valentine’s Day became a romantic holiday in the 14th Century. Around this time, there was a popular perception in England and France that February 14th was the concise date when birds start mating. This fueled the notion that February 14th — Valentine’s Day — should be a day for romance.
Some also give credit to an English poet named Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to symbolize St. Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers through one of his poems in 1375, writing: “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” said Chaucer.
Whether you are a fan of Valentine’s Day or not, it is important to show love to one another each and every day. The ability to express true love has connected humans from all races for centuries—from ancient Roman pagans to modern Christians. So, despite its origin, Valentine’s Day is another day to enjoy spoiling — and being spoiled by — those we love.