Who was Saint Valentine?
The Catholic Church recognizes three different martyred saints referred to as Valentine or Valentinus, and the story that precedes the celebration of the day asserts that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. The then Emperor, Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine saw the decree as unfair, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When his actions were found out, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories imply a possibility that Valentine might have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. This story tells of an imprisoned Valentine who sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl who visited him in prison. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression still in use today. Although the truth behind the history of Valentine is unclear, the story emphasizes a man’s appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and quite a romantic figure.
Valentine’s Day was chosen to be celebrated in the middle of February in an effort to replace the pagan celebration of Lupercalia which was usually celebrated from February 13 through 15 (ides of February). Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
The celebration of Lupercalia became forbidden by law at the end of the 5th Century because it was seen as unchristian and February 14 was declared by Pope Gelasius as St. Valentine’s Day. But it was only in the Middle Ages that the day became decidedly associated with love.
To celebrate or not to celebrate?
It is believed that women take the subject of this day seriously than their male counterparts. That might partially be due to the reason that it is not a recognized holiday or a day of rest and merriment by any country. Yet the day is marked every year as a day to celebrate love. Regardless of the history that came with it and the limitations of the day falling on a work day, love is a universal feeling which is not barred by language, cultures or time zones and should be celebrated every day. If it takes picking a day like St. Valentine’s Day for all to remember the deeds of a man who fought for love to prevail so that we can remember to fight for ours too, then it is worth celebrating.
It is our hope that the tide would turn this time around to find the men picking up the reins of loving expression as the day slowly come upon us.