Valentines day history

Danielle Hughes, staff reporter

 

    The history of Valentine’s Day, and the story of the man it is named for, is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance. We also know that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, features traditions from both Christianity and Ancient Rome. Just who St. Valentine was, however, is not known for sure.

    The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. According to one legend, Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the rule, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, he was put to death.

    Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl. The girl, who visited him in prison, may have been his jailor’s daughter. Before his death, he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.

    Although the truth behind these Valentine legends is questionable, the stories all make him out to be a sympathetic, heroic and romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, Valentine became one of the most popular saints in England and France.