Valentine’s Day has ancient origins as a festival of love, and it actually started as a Christian celebration. Centuries before today’s roses and romance, Valentine’s Day commemorated the com-passionate life and death of Valentinus, a holy priest who Romans persecuted during the empire. They imprisoned him for performing weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians.
Legend has it that while in prison Valentinus miraculously healed Asterius, the daughter of his jailer. He later sent her a letter “from your Valentine” as a farewell before his execution on Feb. 14, 269 AD in Rome. Feb. 14 later became a Christian feast day when Valentine as a martyr (red for blood is the symbolic color) entered the calendar of saints in the Christian Church.
Centuries later, in the 1300s, Valentine’s Day became associated with romance. Poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote that “on St. Valentine’s Day every bird chooses his mate.” His sentiment of “love birds” became entwined with the medieval cult of courtly love of English knights and ladies in the age of Chivalry.
By the 19th century Victorian era in Britain, our now familiar elements including hearts, flowers and chocolate became associated with Valentine’s Day. The custom of exchanging Valentine’s Day cards was inspired by the original letter of St. Valentine. Hometown News considers this special is-sue our valentine to our dear readers.
Dr. Paul Hudson