Discover the captivating stories behind Saint Valentine’s Day legends, including the courageous priest defying emperors, the origins of romantic traditions, and the evolution of a global celebration. Uncover the mysteries of love, sacrifice, and historical significance.
Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14th, has its roots in various legends and stories. Here are a few of the most popular ones:
- St. Valentine of Rome: One of the most widely accepted origin stories of Valentine’s Day is linked to a Christian martyr named St. Valentine. The exact identity of St. Valentine is unclear, as there were multiple martyrs with that name in ancient Rome. The most commonly cited story revolves around a priest named Valentine who lived during the third century. The Roman Emperor Claudius II had banned marriages for young men, believing that single men made better soldiers. Valentine defied this decree and continued to perform marriages for young couples in secret. When his actions were discovered, he was imprisoned and eventually executed on February 14th. Before his death, he allegedly wrote a letter to his jailer’s daughter, with whom he had developed a bond, signing it “From your Valentine,” which is said to have popularized the phrase.
- Roman Festival of Lupercalia: Before Valentine’s Day, ancient Romans celebrated a festival called Lupercalia, held on February 13th to 15th. This festival honored Faunus, the god of fertility, and Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. During Lupercalia, young men would draw the names of young women from a box and become their partners for the duration of the festival, often leading to romantic relationships. The Catholic Church later sought to replace this pagan festival with a Christian holiday, leading to the association of St. Valentine with romantic love.
- Chaucer’s Influence: Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet from the 14th century, is credited with popularizing the idea of Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic love. In his poem “Parliament of Fowls,” he wrote about birds choosing their mates on Valentine’s Day. This concept of birds and mating rituals likely contributed to the association of the day with romantic love and courtship.
- Cupid and Psyche: In Roman mythology, Cupid was the god of love, and Psyche was a mortal woman known for her beauty. The story of Cupid and Psyche is a tale of love, perseverance, and overcoming obstacles. It has become a symbol of enduring love and has been associated with Valentine’s Day due to its romantic themes.
- The Victorian Era: During the Victorian era in the 19th century, Valentine’s Day gained popularity as a time for expressing affection through written cards and letters. These Valentine’s Day cards often featured intricate designs, lace, and sentimental verses. The practice of exchanging valentines became widespread and contributed to the commercialization of the holiday.
These stories and influences have combined over the centuries to shape the way we celebrate Valentine’s Day today. The holiday has evolved into a day to express affection, appreciation, and love for one another, often through the exchange of gifts, cards, flowers, and romantic gestures.
About Saint Valentine of Rome – Legend I
It is said that one of the most popular Valentines associated with Valentine’s Day lived in Rome when the country was under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. It is said that Emperor Claudius was a hard-hearted king who continually confronted Rome in bloody battles. But to keep fighting, I needed to keep recruiting soldiers. However, to his disappointment, Claudio discovered that the men were not willing to join the army because of their bond with their wives and families. To get rid of the problem, Claudio passed an insensitive decree that prohibited commitments and marriages in Rome. He also said that any priest who married a young couple would be executed.
Young men and women found a savior on Valentine’s Day or Valentinus, a romantic priest at heart. Even at the cost of his life, Valentine opposed the unjustified order and secretly arranged marriages with the help of St. Marius. When Claudius finally learned of Valentine’s challenge, he was brutally beaten and imprisoned. Later, Valentine was executed on February 14, around 270 AD. For his martyrdom and service to lovers, Valentine was named saint after his death.
In the Middle Ages, Valentine had become the patron saint of love and lovers in England and France. Then, when Pope Gelasius decided to end the pagan celebrations of the Feast of Lupercalia, he declared in 498 AD that February 14 would be celebrated as Valentine’s Day. Since then, the lovers began to express their love on the Valentine’s day of martyrdom.
About Valentine of Rome – Legend II
According to another popular legend related to Valentine’s Day, a saint named Valentine was a primitive Christian in Rome who loved children very much. However, at that time, Rome was not in favor of Christianity and even persecuted Christians to ensure that Rome remains free of followers of the Christian faith. Despite this law, St. Valentine continued to practice Christianity and refused to worship the Roman gods. When Emperor Claudius learned of this challenge, he put Valentine in a rigorous prison for a year. It is said that when Valentine was in prison, young children began to feel sad because they missed Valentine very much. They even used to throw amorous notes and flowers from the bars of the prison window.
Some historians believe that Valentine was executed because he tried to help some Christian prisoners escape from prison as they were being mistreated. Some also believe that, because of his good behavior, Claudio gave Valentine a chance to change his faith. But Valentine not only refused, but he tried to convert Claudius to Christianity. This enraged Claudio and finally approved orders for his execution. Valentine was beheaded on February 14, 269 d. C. or 270 d. C.
About Saint Valentine – Bishop of Interamna – Legend III
Some scholars talk about the presence of another Valentine related to the celebration of Valentine’s Day on February 14. This Saint Valentine was a bishop who resided in Interamna (today known as Terni) in Italy in the third century. It is said that he dedicated his life to the Christian community of Terni, becoming the first bishop of the city. People worshiped Bishop Valentine and the fame of his sanctity and miracles came to Rome.
Valentine was also related to love because he is believed to be the first religious character to oversee the marriage between a pagan man and a Christian woman. It is believed that this Valentine was flogged, imprisoned and beheaded by Placidus, Prefect of Interanma. The bones of the relic of this Valentine are in a basilica in Terni. To commemorate the saint, every year on February 14, the city of Terni hosts exhibitions, fairs and cultural events.