The Origins of Valentine's Day

by - Tuesday, February 05, 2019

It is so unfortunate that Valentine's Day has been so commercialized and the true meanings of this day forgotten, as is the case with most other holidays. The vast majority of holidays that the Western world celebrates have deep and meaningful significance to them, yet our societies have long forgotten them. Hopefully, my little post on the beginnings of Valentine's Day will help you change your mind if you feel negatively or indifferently towards this wonderful day. And even if you have always nurtured positive feelings about the day of Love, perhaps you'll gain a little insight regarding how it all began.

I must admit: I have written up a post on the origins of Valentine's Day before, but it was simplistic, and I did so with a very small readership at the time. I thought I'd expand on what I wrote before with a slightly different approach. 

It all began with the legend of St. Valentine. The Catholic Church recognizes three separate saints, all named Valentine (or Valentinus), who were martyred. The lives and actions of these three men have been woven together to tell the following story.

We go back in time to ancient Rome, in the year 269 A.D., when Claudius the Cruel reigned as emperor. Valentine, a priest, was about to face a huge decision. The Emperor issued an edict that not only outlawed all marriages but called for the death of those who disobeyed this law. He was bothered by his soldiers, who wished, after long campaigns, to spend time with their families. It was his belief that families and marriage weakened men. Yet Valentine believed that marriage was a creation of God--an institution blessed and encouraged by Him. How could Claudius possibly think that he had the authority to undo what God had ordained? To Valentine, marriage was the foundation of strong families, and in turn, strong families were the backbone of society. This was not just a law enacted against romantic love, but it was the first stroke of a war on family. There was no doubt in Valentine's mind: he had to retaliate. 

Valentine was willing to fight to the death for families, marriage, and love rather than see the death of these institutions under the tight-fisted rule of Claudius. 

As word of the Emperor's cruel decree spread throughout Rome, Valentine and his peers began to speak out. Valentine's protests were not through words only but by actions as well. He continued to secretly conduct weddings and ordain marriages. He also started helping imprisoned Christians escape from their captors.

These actions could not stay secret for long; rumours of a priest called Valentine, and his actions, began to reach the ears of Claudius. Soon, he was being searched for. It was not long before he was caught and jailed. His execution was being planned. 

The jailkeeper's blind daughter, Julia, came to Valentine's cell to give him his food. Valentine thanked her for it, and she was taken aback. No one had ever bothered to engage her in conversation, and because of her blindness, her worth was virtually nothing in that day and age. They began a friendship, and Valentine amazed her with his hope and kindness. How could an imprisoned man be so full of joy when his impending doom was death?

As their relationship progressed, and they found more and more time to speak with one another, Valentine shared the reason for his hope. He told Julia about the Gospel and his faith, and eventually, she was able to share that with him as they began to fall in love. He told her how beautiful she was and how she reminded him of lilies, his favourite flower. She would bring him flowers from the outside, and he would describe them to her. 

Oh, how Julia wished she could see him! Valentine told her he was praying for her sight to be restored. One day, her sight did return, and she was healed! The jailkeeper, her father, was shocked and appealed to his superiors to have Valentine released, arguing that he was no criminal, if anything he was the complete opposite. While all this had been going on, Valentine's friends and followers began protesting and asking for his release, causing the Emperor to be fearful of riots and public unrest. Claudius summoned Valentine to his presence. 

Valentine made his case: outlawing marriage for the sake of strengthening the armies of the Emperor was counterproductive. Families, marriage, and love are what imbue soldiers with strength, giving them something to fight for. 

Claudius relented--but conditionally so. He stated that Valentine could go, so long as he stopped performing marriages and recanted his faith in Christ. But this was something that Valentine could not and would not do. The Emperor condemned him to death. 

Valentine returned to his jail cell one last time. He would never see Julia again; her father had her move for fear that Claudius would kill her and the rest of his family since he was greatly displeased with him for calling for Valentine's release. So, Valentine wrote her a letter. He thanked her for her loyalty, kindness, and love, and he signed it, "Your Valentine."

Although Valentine was executed, his work was continued by his followers, and marriage ceremonies were still performed. When Claudius the Cruel died a year later in battle, the institution of marriage was restored throughout Rome. The Church would later declare Valentine a saint, and in 496 A.D., February 14th was dedicated to his honor and memory. As time went on, this day became one wherein we remember those we love and cherish, sending each other notes and cards to express our gratitude and affection. 

Happy Valentine's Day!!

This post was part of a Valentine's Day Blog Countdown Project, headed by the lovely Molly of Maybe Miss Molly.  Please check out the following bloggers! Read up on the last four days, and get ready for some amazing content all the way up to the 14th of February. :)

Day 1: Connie -- Date Ideas for Valentine's Day
Day 2: Deanna -- Valentine's Day Makeup & Outfit Inspiration
Day 3: Lavrax -- Edible & Personalised Gift Ideas
Day 4: Megan -- Valentine's Day Ideas for Singles
Day 5: My post, you just read it :)
Day 6: Rach -- Valentine's Day Ideas for the Family
Day 7: Molly -- Valentine's Cupcake Recipes
Day 8: Shealea -- Sapphic Romances that will make your heart soft on Valentine's Day
Day 9: Kerry -- Valentine's Gifts for Travellers
Day 10: Vicky --Mindful Date Ideas
Day 11: Divine -- The Perks of Dating a Mood Reader
Day 12: Soph -- Valentine's Day Gifts on a Budget / For Students
Day 13: Molly -- Last Minute Valentine's Ideas
Day 14: Taiwo -- Best Romantic Movies To Watch

*photos from Unsplash*

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