It’s February, the month of love. The month of flowers and gifts and hopefully lots of wine. All in the name of Saint Valentine. But do you actually know who this person was who created such a loving, gift-giving, and sometimes disappointing day every year?
We know that Valentine’s Day is associated with showering a loved one with flowers, chocolates, soft toys, and romantic meals. Bubbly, Rose, and every other kind of pink drink you can think of! Sounds like the stuff of fairy tales. In actual fact, the story and history behind Valentine’s Day is pretty harsh and a little dark and foreboding. This actually makes sense if you realize that Mr. Valentine, to which the celebratory day owes its name, was supposedly alive during the third century in Rome. Things were certainly a little different back then.
As it often happens with time, some of the details of exactly what happened and to whom get a little blurry. There are quite a few different ideas about what actually happened and who exactly Valentine was.
The history of Valentine’s Day
Let’s start with why Valentine’s Day actually came into existence. Firstly, it seems to be that the month of February was either Valentine’s date of birth or death. Hence Valentine’s Day is celebrated in February. There is in fact more than one Saint named Valentine, and they are celebrated in different belief systems on different days. But we won’t go and confuse you with all of that.
Legend has it that way back in the day during the Roman Empire, Emperor Claudius II, who was ruling during that time, came to the realization that single men made better soldiers. Now if you think about that it might make sense considering that a father or husband may not be so willing to lay his life on the line for his country, and subsequently abandon his family.
After reaching this conclusion, Emperor Claudius II forbade young men to get married and ruled against all matrimony. In doing so he hoped to create a strong loyal army who would have no other obligation to anyone but himself.
Along came Valentine, who was either a priest or a bishop, (depending on which story you might find) who saw the great injustice in this and performed secret ceremonies for Christian couples who still wanted to promise their love to each other. The Emperor found out and ordered Valentine to be put to death where he was quite dramatically, beheaded. But not before he had made a name for himself and what he believed in.
Pretty dark for a holiday associated with hand-holding and romantic gestures.
A different version
Another and quite appropriate theory is that Valentine was captured by the Roman Empire for helping Christians escape captivity from the Roman prisons. He saw the ill-treatment of the prisoners and tried to help them when he himself got caught and imprisoned. Whilst incarcerated, legend has it that he had fallen in love with a girl, perhaps the jailer’s daughter, and wrote her letters to which he signed, “from your Valentine”. Hence sending out the very first Valentine to an admirer. And it seems like the rest is history. Literally.
We can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he had had a different name.
In any case, we thought it was a pretty interesting story and we are grateful to Saint Valentine, whoever he really was, for bringing a little love and caring into the world.
We hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.