We Americans spend a lot of money on love. An estimated 250 million roses are produced for Valentine’s Day delivery. A survey by the National Retail Federation has Americans spending a total of two billion dollars for the holiday in 2017. Truly people want to express their love, but why does it center on one day?
Who was Valentine? How does he warrant all the preparation and spending?
It is officially called Saint Valentine’s Day, positioning it as a Christian celebration. I found there were many priests and even a pope with the name of Valentine, but only one (possibly two) who inspired the romantic holiday.
One legend tells of a temple priest named Valentine. Another claims he was a third century Roman priest, Saint Valentine of Terni.
Most legends of this day tell of persecution by the Roman government. The emperor, Claudias II, ruled the country at the time. Some legends tell of Claudias prohibiting marriage between young people. His thinking being that unmarried soldiers were better focused on the battlefield, since they didn’t have to worry about wives and children. This legend tells of Saint Valentine going against the emperor’s edict by performing secret Christian wedding ceremonies.
Other legends simply tell of the imprisoning of Christians, who were then submitted to torture and inhumane conditions. This legend has Saint Valentine helping Christians to escape the Roman prisons.
Either way, he became a Christian martyr in about 269 AD, when he was sentenced to execution by beating, stoning, and decapitation. Some legends say the date of his death was February 14.
How romantic Valentine’s Day cards began:
One account tells of Valentine praying with and healing the blind daughter of Asterius, a Roman judge. Another version of this legend simply states the daughter of his jailor, Asterius, visited him in prison and they fell in love.
Before his death, it is said Valentine wrote a note to the daughter of Asterius, signing it “from your Valentine.” Thus began our Valentine cards.
As stated above, some say Valentine was executed on February 14. Other accounts tell us the date for Saint Valentine’s Day was instituted by the church to Christianize a pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15.
Valentine’s Day may have been invented by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. No record exists of romantic celebration of Valentine’s Day prior to a poem written by Chaucer around 1375. In the poem, February 14 is the day birds and humans come together find a mate.
Whoever Saint Valentine was and whatever the reason February 14 became the day of celebration, letting a loved one know of your feelings is a good thing. This is something we should practice every day of the year.
“Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,” Ephesians 5:18b–19 ESV