by Ivy Merrill
Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and friendship and the joy of having other people in your life. It’s a day of flowers, candy, and cards adorned with hearts. Valentine’s Day is also associated with romance, but the origin of the holiday is far less romantic.
There are many theories on how Valentine’s Day originated. No one quite knows how it started, but the most well-known theory begins in Rome in the year 268.
Emperor Claudius II wanted a fierce team of soldiers to fight in his armies. He found that when the young men were married or had children, they seemed to be more cautious and less willing to join the military. In order to ensure large numbers of soldiers for his armies, Claudius outlawed marriage for those young single men. Claudius may have outlawed love, but he could not stop it.
Young couples still fell in love and wanted to be married in the church. A very brave priest named Valentine thought the law was terribly unjust. So he continued performing marriage ceremonies in secret which put his life in peril. Valentine wore a ring with Cupid on it (a symbol of love) to help soldiers recognize him. Also, he handed out paper hearts to remind Christians of their love for God. Despite his cautious efforts to keep the ceremonies hidden from authorities, word of Valentine’s actions made its way back to Claudius. The priest was found guilty and set to be martyred on February 14th in the year 270. Centuries later, the Catholic Church declared him a saint. Right before he died, Valentine supposedly wrote the first-ever “valentine” to his jailer’s daughter whom he had fallen in love with. No one knows exactly when Valentine’s Day was first celebrated, but there is another poem that some others consider to be the first “valentine”. It was sent from a prisoner in the Tower of London to his wife in the year 1415.
My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon,
And I for you was born too late.
God forgives him who has estranged
Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine.
Valentine’s Day traditions have changed a lot over the years. From the 5th to 15th century in Europe people would exchange handmade cards with love notes inside. Today, 19.6 billion dollars is spent on Valentine’s Day cards and gifts every year. On Valentine’s Day people worldwide and of all religions celebrate the tradition of love that Saint Valentine created. Because of the saintly origin of this holiday, it is banned in some countries. Some repressive governments have taken it a step further by attempting to halt the flow of love by confiscating all red roses available in the country, but people still have the courage to show love by celebrating the occasion and the history of Valentine’s Day lives on each year on February 14th.