Spring is a mere 6 weeks away and love is in the air as we as a nation, and world at large get ready to celebrate the day of love, Valentine’s Day! When couples and friends celebrate their love for one another by lavishing each other with gifts and accouterments. Or Maybe a late dinner at the little corner bistro down the street from their homes. But, why exactly do we celebrate this day? And, for that, matter, where does the name come from or the day’s origin?
You may be surprised to know that the word, Valentine, is the name of a saint. Saint Valentine. But, It should be made clear that history of the saint is a bit foggy and from all accounts there was more than just one Saint Valentine.
One of the telling of Saint Valentine is that of a saint who refused to convert to paganism under the Roman rule of Emperor Claudius II. He was executed and became martyred. But, prior to his death, it is said that he performed a miracle on his jailer’s daughter, whose whole family converted to Christianity from her miraculous healing.
Another telling is that of Saint Valentine of Terni, Northeast of Rome. He was known as the true namesake of Saint Valentine. He, too, was executed for his refusal to convert to paganism.
However, according to some, and this is how the holiday became love-focused, a Roman Priest began performing weddings for soldiers who could not marry, due to a Roman Emperor decreeing that married soldiers made for weak warriors.
These soldiers would seek out this Roman Priest, who wore a ring with a cupid on it, so soldiers could identify him. In a precursor to greeting cards, the Roman priest would hand out hearts to the soldiers to remind them of their Christian love for God.
Because of this legend of the Roman priest, Saint Valentine became known as the Patron Saint of Love. Essentially connecting people in love with each other and God.
But it was until the medieval author, Geoffrey Chaucer in 1381. Chaucer lived in the Middle Ages, the era of courtly love, when romantic statements of devotion—poems, songs, paintings—celebrated partnership.
By the end of the 15th century, the word "valentine" was being used to describe a lover in poems and songs of the day, and in the 18th century, a book called The Young Man's Valentine Writer was published in England. By the mid-19th century, mass-produced paper Valentine's Cards were being created, and Valentine's Day as we know it was born.