Valentine’s Day – “the low down”

150 – 200 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent annually, second only to greetings sent at Christmas time.

So what is Valentine’s day?

Valentine’s Day and the story of its namesake saint are somewhat of a mystery.

What we do know is that the month of February has been celebrated, for some time now, as a tryst with romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day contains elements of Christian, ancient Roman and pagan tradition.

The question is, was there a Saint Valentine? And, if there was, how did he become involved with this tradition?

In the Catholic Church, there were three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus. One school of thought is that there was a priest named Valentine who served in the Holy See in the third century.

During Valentine’s tenure, the Emperor of the Roman Empire, Claudius II ordered a halt on marriages for young men, with a view that the Empire would be better served by soldiers without wives and families.

Valentine defied this decree and continued to perform nuptials for young lovers in secret. On hearing about Valentine’s defiance, Claudius ordered Valentine’s death.

Another account suggests that Valentine may have been killed for helping Christians escape the long, and most times brutal hand of Roman justice. These individuals often languished in squalid conditions in Roman prisons, subjected to torture and inhumane treatment.

According to an oft-repeated story, Valentine, while in a Roman prison, sent the first “valentine” greeting after he engaged in amorous play with a young lady who visited him during his imprisonment. Just prior to his martyrdom, the story goes, he wrote the young damsel a letter at the end of which he penned, “From your Valentine,” a phrase that is still used today.

Although the truth behind St. Valentine will never be fully unearthed, he will go down as the reason we celebrate Valentine’s Day, and will be remembered as a debonair hero with a romantic flair, and, his day, St. Valentine’s Day will continue to be a day of celebration of Love.

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