Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!
How it All Got Started
How did this heart-filled, card-sending, candy-giving holiday begin? The exact details of its origins are not clear, but the basis behind Valentine’s Day stems from a priest named Valentine who lived during the reign of Roman emperor Claudius II, also known as “Claudius the Cruel.”
Back in 270 A.D. Christians were under severe persecution. During this same time Claudius II was also having great difficulty enlisting men into his military leagues. The emperor realized that the married men did not want to leave their wives to serve in the military, and many of the single men had sweethearts or girlfriends that they, too, did not want to be away from.
Claudius decided he would put an end to his problem. He ordered that no more marriages were to be performed and that all engagements were to be annulled. Valentine chose to disobey the emperor’s command. Understanding the sanctity of marriage as a part of God’s plan for mankind, he continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies for Christian couples.
When Claudius discovered the priests’ disobedience he ordered the arrest of Valentine. The faithful priest was beaten with clubs, and then beheaded.
His death occurred on February 14, 270 A.D.
As is common with many other holidays a pagan holiday coincided with what became known as Valentine’s Day. Christians wanted to remember St. Valentine and offer believers an alternative to the pagan holiday, much as we now hold fall festivals on Halloween. One of the traditions that carried over into Valentine’s Day was that of drawing names.
Each maiden’s and bachelor’s names would be put into a box and drawn out in pairs. These couple would exchange gifts, and would be partnered for the evening’s celebration.
Opinions vary as to how the hearts and flowers became associated with Valentine’s Day, but many attribute the first Valentines to a young French duke who was captured at the battle of Agincourt during the 15th century. He was kept a prisoner in the Tower of London for many years and, during his captivity, wrote hundreds of beautiful poems to his wife.
Sixty of these are on display in the British Museum today. These somehow became known as Valentines.
Centuries later a daughter of Henry IV of France gave a party in honor of St. Valentine. Each lady received a bouquet of flowers from her chosen Valentine. In more recent times commercial enterprise gets a great deal of the credit for modern-day traditions. Placing candy into heart-shaped boxes and offering ready-made Valentine cards has turned into a multi-million dollar business.
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