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Why do we do Valentines?

To My Valentine Illustration
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Why are we doing this today?  The flowers, the chocolates, the jewelry the … the proposals of marriage and the marriages that will take place today all around the world? Why?  Who was St. Valentine and what did he do other than lose his head over Love?

Valentine Postcard By H. Wessler
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As with many mythical/real characters who once walked the earth – it was so long ago that you have to accept a few grains of legend mixed with the truth.  Because Valentinus was at one time as popular a name as Smith or Jones today there actually may have been several ‘Valentines’. Valentinus is Latin for ‘strong, worthy or powerful’ so you can understand why a lot of families would bestow a name like that on a healthy baby boy.

But by most accounts the man we typically associate with today’s celebrations was a priest who lived in or near Rome in the third century A.D.

The legend is basically this: the Roman Emperor Claudius II forbade men from marrying, figuring that single men made better warriors.  Bachelors wouldn’t be laying around camp pining to go home to the wife and kids, but rather stay consistently mean and constantly mad and ready to kill something or somebody at the drop of a hat.

But human nature being what it is, and was back then – many soldiers and recruits wanted to marry their girlfriends – as was proper pagan behavior and fit in nicely as well with the new religion with one God circulating around: Christianity.

Iraqis Celebrate Valentine's Day in Baghdad
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So along comes a fellow named we believe, Valentinus, a Christian priest who would secretly marry the couples in private ceremonies and send them on their way.  That is until Claudius got wind of the goings on, yeah somebody talked.  Predictably he had Valentinus arrested, let him rot in a prison cell for a good while and ultimately sentenced to death and beheaded.

But for Claudius and the world from then until now it was already too late the legend had been born – from war and death was born love and peace.

Again, Valentine was a popular name in those parts way back when and there was a Bishop Valentine as well – the Bishop of Terni – he was also martyred by Claudius (who was also known for his unpredictable and notorious temper) though there’s not a clear record as to what the Bishop of Terni’s transgressions were, perhaps Claudius was just mad at all the Valentines in the valley.

Maybe Claudius couldn’t get a regular girlfriend, like I said it was a long time ago, records are sketchy.

St Valentine

So because Valentinus thought that Claudius’ edict was unfair to young folks in love and he facilitated their marriages and presided over their ceremonies he was martyred for it. Legend has it he was beheaded on the morning of February 14, 270 A.D. and thus we celebrate love and all it’s accompanying assets today.  The Catholic church later made him a Saint because he was martyred over Love, so it was just the right thing to do.

By the way in addition to fostering Love, he’s got other Saintly duties in the afterlife including helping protect travelers (on their way to a honey moon?) and in the cause of helping epileptics and of course intervening upon the prayers and pleas of hopeful lovers.

So, go out and fall in Love if you’re not already – but don’t lose your head over it!

Chinese Celebrate Valentine's Day
VCG via Getty Images

Love is timeless, Love is ageless, I love Love! so Celebrate Love and Happy Valentines Day to you!

Read more about Valentinus here or even here.

 

 

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