Emperor Claudius of Rome noticed that he couldn’t get enough recruits for his armies and why was that? Men did not want to leave their wives and sweeties! So, Clever Claudius put out an executive order cancelling all marriages and engagements. Voila! One stroke of a feathered pen and no marriages, so no trouble getting soldiers to guard the Roman borders against the Picts and the Goths. Of course, as you know, “the stricter the government, the wiser the population”. One maverick priest called Valentine secretly performed weddings and the government found him out. The emperor issued Father Valentine a party invitation that could not be declined. He was martyred Feb. 14th AD 270 and the church awarded him sainthood.
In another legend also sourcing from the time of the late Roman Empire, Valentine was arrested for being part of a radical religion considered a threat to the state, “Christianity” (adherents to this radical sect broken off from Judaism were called”people of The Way” back then). He fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and she used to visit him in prison. When Valentine was marched to his final appearance in a live performance featuring lions killing “enemies of the state” in the arena, he left a note to his girlfriend signed, “from your Valentine”. We still use that phrase today.
In the middle ages people in England and France believed that birds began their mating seasons about February 14th and the practice of lovers sending romantic, hand-crafted greetings on that day arose. St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. During the reign of a very romantic queen, Victoria (she started the fashion of wearing white for weddings too), a new technology called lithography made commercially produced “Valentines” widely available.
These days, we tend to forget Valentine was a saint. Over the years there came more and more emphasis on the romantic, even pornographic festival of marketing prurience the day has become. Really, the feast of St. Valentine has absolutely nothing to do with a plot hatched in hell or by Hallmark.It is a commemoration of an early Christian martyr who couldn’t stand to see people in love apart.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day with all my love,