Origins of Valentine’s Day

By Andrew Pankratz
Times-News correspondent

   The origin of Valentine’s Day is rather obscure, though several colorful legends about its origin survive to modern times.
Some believe Valentine’s Day is related to an ancient Roman love festival celebrated in February; however, little historical evidence supports this view.
A more commonly believed legend credits a priest named Valentine with a major hand in the creation of Valentine’s Day. Apparently, the Roman Emperor Claudius II found himself in a military bind. His army was dwindling due to a plague just at the moment he needed all the soldiers he could get to defeat the Goths. Eventually, Claudius II decided that married men made bad soldiers, and he immediately banned marriage in all his dominions, according to The History Channel.
   Well, a priest named Valentine disagreed with the emperor, and he continued to perform clandestine marriage ceremonies. The soldiers knew Valentine was still performing marriages by the amethyst ring engraved with a picture of Cupid that he wore. St. Valentine could keep this up only so long before he was caught, and caught he was. The Roman Emperor was filled with wrath that anyone would dare disobey him, and he promptly ordered St. Valentine executed.
Another legend asserts Valentine was simply a Christian arrested by the Roman government for his religious beliefs. During the imprisonment preceding his execution, Valentine prayed that the jailer’s blind daughter might see again; and, according to legend, she did. On the eve of his execution, he wrote her a letter which he signed from your Valentine.
Whether or not these ancient tales are true, Valentine’s Day remained simply a day celebrating a martyr until the latter end of the Middle Ages, when it began taking on romantic connotations, a trend which continued into the Renaissance through the efforts of various writers including Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare.
As time marched on, Valentine’s Day more and more associated itself with romance and love in the popular mind.
Today, Valentine’s Day celebrations are so widespread that the number of valentines sent each year is second only to Christmas cards, according to The History Channel.
Valentine’s Day started as a celebration to honor a martyr, but gradually evolved into a day very much associated with romance.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

Andrew Pankratz is a home-schooled junior and a Teens & 20s writer.

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