The Heart of Valentine’s Day

Well, the history of Valentine’s Day is impossible to be obtained from any archive and the veil of centuries gone by has made the origin behind this day even more difficult to trace. Today’s celebrations are said to have been derived from both Christian and Roman tradition. As per one legend, the holiday originated from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that used to be observed annually on February 15. But the rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs. Lupercalia was no exception. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14. He proclaimed February 14 to be the feast day in honour of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century. It is generally agreed that this St. Valentine is whom the modern Valentine’s Day pays tribute to.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. Surprisingly, all three of them were said to have been martyred on February 14th. Pope Gelasius, however, intended to honour the first of these three aforementioned men. Most scholars believe that this St. Valentine was a priest who lived around 270 AD in Rome and attracted the disfavour of the then Roman Emperor Claudius II. So why did V end up on Claudius’ black list? Well, St. Valentine was a bishop who held secret marriage ceremonies despite the Emperor’s edict that prohibited young men to marry.

You see when the Empire had grown too large to be shielded from external aggression naturally more and more capable men were required to be recruited as soldiers and officers to protect the nation from takeover. When Claudius became emperor, he felt that because married men were more emotionally attached to their families they would not make good soldiers. This is where Valentine stepped in. Whenever lovers thought of marrying, they went to Valentine who met them in a secret place, and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. Unfortunately for him, such things cannot remain hidden for long. It was only a matter of time before Claudius came to know of this “friend of lovers,” and had him arrested.

When Claudius II met Valentine, he was said to have been impressed by his dignity and conviction. However, Valentine refused to agree with the emperor regarding the ban on marriage. It is also said that the emperor tried to convert Valentine to the Roman gods but was unsuccessful in his efforts. Valentine refused once again and even attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity, knowing the consequences fully. This angered Claudius II who gave the order of execution of Valentine. He is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD.

Thus the 14th of February became a day for all lovers and Valentine its Patron Saint. It began to be annually observed by young Romans who offered handwritten greetings of affection, known as Valentines.

So whether or not you go out and buy any of the usual suspects for your honey go and give someone a bacio- it’s the least you can do for Valentine’s sake!

written by Amanda Fulginiti