Thursday, February 14, 2013

Saint Valentine

The famous Day of Love has arrived and some will be celebrating it with their love and some will celebrate it as a day of "single awareness", but how many know the history and legends of this day and the Saint behind it?

Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentine or Valentinius who by all stories is said to be a sympathetic hero and the stories display him in a romantic light. The history and legends of St. Valentine are clouded in the fogs of history. The most popular myths surround men who stood up against the persecution of the Roman Emperor Claudius II (also known as Claudius Gothicus). The story of Valentine of Rome is one that states he assisted the persecuted and when captured refused to turn away from his Christian faith. Another popular is of Valentine of Turni and the myth is that the Emperor had forbidden Christians and soldiers from getting married, and Valentine defied this order for which reasons he was arrested and placed in prison. It is also said he tried to convert the Emperor over to Christianity and for such insolence he was beaten with clubs before being beheaded which was said to have occurred on February 14th, in either 269 or 270.

With both of these stories, it is said that he was in correspondence with the daughter of Asterius, a jailer. One states that at one point he had restored her vision and others state that on the eve of his execution he signed his letter "From your Valentine".

Pope Gelasius I established on February 14 as the Feast of St. Valentine in 496. Some speculate that this celebration was established to better assist in the Christianization of pagans as they celebrated Lupercalia, a holiday that took place in February and was centered around fertility and purification; it was a month of romance and it is said this is when birds begin to mate and it is plausible that this inspired the phrase "love birds". Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture (and is equivalent to the Greek god Pan), as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

This day didn't become the "day of love" until around the 14th and 15th centuries when you see the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer. The day then started to evolve where lovers would express their love by sending cards, presenting flowers, or giving confectionaries which would become to be known as "Valentines". The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The practice of anonymous card giving didn't come about until the late 18th and early 19th century when printing technology was evolving rapidly enough to produce greeting cards and mail them to one another. It was in the 1840s that mass-produced Valentines began to be sold in the US by Esther A. Howland who became to be known as the "Mother of the Valentine". Valentine gifts continued to evolve and they spread to the US and eventually became much commercialized.

The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. Half of those valentines are given to family members other than husband or wife, usually to children. When you include the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines and women purchase approximately 85% of all Valentines. With the creation of the Internet and its wide use, it is estimated that 15-million "e-Valentines" were sent in 2010. Valentine’s Day is the second biggest holiday for greeting cards with Christmas being the first. Valentine's Day is celebrated in the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, France, and Australia.

Today Saint Valentine is considered to be the Patron Saint of affianced couples, beekeepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.


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5. Valentine's Day. (n.d.). Retrieved from History Channel:

6. Valentine's Day History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Infoplease:

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