There are several stories about the origin of this day, and all of them are associated with a saint by the name, St. Valentine. One legend says that he was a priest near Rome during the reign of Claudius II.
Rome was a huge empire that was in constant battle from all sides, which, considering the size of Rome was nothing unexpected. The empire had grown too large to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos with existing forces. Thus, more of capable men were required to be recruited as soldiers and officers. When Claudius became the emperor, he felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, will not make good soldiers. So to assure the high quality of soldiers, he banned marriage.
This came as a blow to the soldiers, who could not imagine leaving their lovers behind without even a promise of love and togetherness, to have a reason to fight the battle and reunite with their lovers in matrimony. [Read: A sweet and true story of unconditional love]
Valentine, a bishop, seeing the trauma of young lovers, met them in a secret place and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. Claudius learned of this “friend of lovers” and had him arrested. The emperor, impressed with the young priest’s dignity and conviction, attempted to convert him to the Roman gods, to save him from certain execution.
Valentine refused to recognize Roman gods and even attempted to convert the emperor, knowing the consequences fully.
There are varying ideas about what exactly happened to Valentine after his arrest.
A few historians say that he was beheaded, whereas the others say that he became sick and died in prison.
In 1835, the remains of St. Valentine were given to Father John Spratt by Pope Gregory XVI. The gift, in a black and gold casket, can still be viewed every Valentine’s Day at the Whitefrair Street Church in Dublin, Ireland.
There was another Valentine, a bishop of Interamna during the same time, and some critics say that it was the Valentine of Interamna who is the actual Valentine.
While Valentine was in prison awaiting his fate, he came in contact with his jailor, Asterius. The jailor had a blind daughter. Asterius requested Valentine to heal his daughter. Through his faith, he miraculously restored the sight of Asterius’ daughter.
It is believed that he fell in love with this girl, who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a heartfelt letter, which he signed ‘From your Valentine.’ And even now, years and centuries after this letter was written, the expression has touched our hearts and we still use the same words of love that was once used to express an emotion that has no words to explain. [Read: How to tell a special someone that you love them]
On February 13 and 14, the ancient Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia in honor of Juno, the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. Juno was also the goddess of women and marriage, so honoring her was thought to be a fertility rite. [Read: 23 must-know relationship advice for women]
At the feast held the next day, the women would write love letters and stick them in a large urn. The men would pick a letter from the urn and for the next year, pursue the woman who wrote the chosen letter. This custom lasted until the 1700’s when people decided their beloveds should be chosen by sight, not luck. [Read: 25 relationship rules for successful love]
But people continued to write love notes and exchange gifts on February 14, and hence this day was dedicated to the priest who died trying to bring lovers together, and to all the lovers the world over. Thus, Valentine became a patron saint and a spiritual overseer of this loving annual festival of love and togetherness.
So now that you know why we celebrate Valentine’s Day, share it with your loved one. After all, you wouldn’t want to celebrate a special day without even as much as knowing the real reason behind it, would you?
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