Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Real History of Valentine's Day

By Jennifer Uhlarik


Valentine’s Day…leading up to every February 14, you almost can’t enter a store without being ambushed by banners and signs, “Don’t forget Valentine’s Day!” Store aisles are stuffed with heart-shaped candy samplers, boxes of cheesy Valentine’s cards for school kids, and even teddy bears and other plushies to commemorate another “day of love!” So…do you love this holiday, or hate it? I’ve been in both camps at various points in my life. 

·      Single, while most of my friends were in dating relationships—“Maybe I’ll have someone to celebrate it with next year…”

·      Dating my college sweetheart—“I LOVE IT! I love him! I love LOVE…”

·      Married, but not happily—“Meh…”

·      Single after a divorce—“Why the hey-hey do we even celebrate this stupid, over-commercialized “holiday…? It’s only meant to line the greedy greeting card and candy-makers’ pockets, am I right?”

·      Dating the man of my dreams—“Whoop whoop! The magic of February 14 has returned!”

·      Married to the man of my dreams— “Who needs to wait for February 14? Every day is a reason to celebrate our love…”


That said, do you know the history behind Valentine’s Day? It’s more than a random date chosen by greeting card companies, chocolatiers, or florists to sell their products. There are multiple St. Valentines in Christian church history, and there’s some question of whether their stories have been morphed into one. But while the details may be a bit muddled due to records being destroyed or lost to antiquity, the general consensus is that the origin of Valentine’s Day dates back to around A.D. 270 in Rome. 


Two years earlier, in A.D. 268, the Roman Empire covered much of the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, and Rome had many enemies. The Goths were invading, and at the same time, the Alamanni were crossing the Alps with evil intentions. The newly ascended Emperor, Claudius II—a pagan man also known as “Claudius the Cruel”—was ready and willing to defend the homeland, but he needed to have a strong, resilient army at his disposal to fight the threats.


A coin with image of
Emperor Claudius II, aka
"Claudius the Cruel"
But he had a problem. Roman men weren’t willing to join him as soldiers to fight. After some deliberation, Claudius concluded that these men were not joining 

him because they didn’t want to leave their wives and children. So to combat this obstacle, he made the decision to ban weddings in Rome (whether it was a blanket ban for all citizens or only for the men of fighting age is unclear).


A Christian priest of the time, Valentinus (the Roman way of spelling Valentine), saw that the emperor’s ruling went against God’s law. After all, God had created marriage when he brought Adam and Eve together in Genesis, and He’d called that union good. So how could this man, Emperor Claudius, later ban the institution as evil. So Valentinus would meet couples in the woods and perform Christian marriage ceremonies for them.


As news of this reached those in power, calls came for Valentinus to be imprisoned, which he was. But Judge Asterius listened to the priest’s discussions of Jesus Christ, and he put Valentinus on the spot. The judge’s daughter was blind, so he brought the girl to his prisoner and told him to pray for her healing. Valentinus did, and she was healed that day. Three days later, the judge and his household were baptized, and afterward, Asterius released all the Christian prisoners.


aka St. Valentine
With his freedom restored, Valentinus continued to preach of Jesus, but he was again imprisoned, this time being taken to Emperor Claudius himself. Claudius took a quick liking to Valentinus—until the priest encouraged him to believe in Jesus. Claudius staunchly refused and gave the order that Valentinus must either renounce his faith in Christ or he would be beaten with clubs and beheaded. Valentinus would not recant. So on February 14 in the year A.D. 270 (some sources say A.D. 269), the punishment was carried out. Valentinus was taken to the Flaminian Gate and beaten then beheaded.


Whether true or not, I am unsure, but there is an addendum to the above history
that says prior to his execution, Valentinus wrote to Judge Asterius’s daughter whom he’d prayed for and saw her blindness healed—and supposedly, he signed the letter, “From your Valentine.”


It is easy to see how this man was someone the Catholic church chose to celebrate. Sometime after his death (and after Emperor Claudius II’s death—which came in A.D. 270 also), a feast in honor of Valentinus was called every February 14th. And over the years, his continued performing of weddings despite the Emperor’s ban, the apocryphal bit about his unusual signature line on a letter to a young girl, and more, morphed into the celebration of love we now know as Valentine’s Day. 


It's Your Turn:
 What are your feelings about this holiday? Does learning the history of its origin change your opinion of the day? If so, how?


Award-winning, best-selling novelist Jennifer Uhlarik has loved the western genre since she read her first Louis L’Amour novel. She penned her first western while earning a writing degree from University of Tampa. Jennifer lives near Tampa with her husband, son, and furbabies.




Love’s Fortress by Jennifer Uhlarik


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When Dani Sango’s art forger father passes away, Dani inherits his home. There, she finds a book of Native American drawings, which leads her to seek museum curator Brad Osgood’s help to decipher the ledger art. Why would her father have this book? Is it another forgery?


Brad Osgood longs to provide his four-year-old niece, Brynn, the safe home she desperately deserves. The last thing he needs is more drama, especially from a forger’s daughter. But when the two meet “accidentally” at St. Augustine’s 350-year-old Spanish fort, he can’t refuse the intriguing woman.


Broken Bow is among seventy-three Plains Indians transported to Florida in 1875 for incarceration at ancient Fort Marion. Sally Jo Harris and Luke Worthing dream of serving on a foreign mission field, but when the Indians reach St. Augustine, God changes their plans. However, when Sally Jo’s friendship with Broken Bow leads to false accusations, it could cost them their lives.


Can Dani discover how Broken Bow and Sally Jo’s story ends and how it impacted her father’s life?


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today. I knew nothing about Valentinus before now. I don't think too much about Valentine's Day, I think it's just an advertisement hype. I'd prefer love to be shown every day, in big and small ways.