St. Valentine’s Day

TR Staff
Staff Writer

By Ellie Boese
Nearly a dozen saints with the name Valentine or some close variation appear on the Roman Catholic roster of saints. “Valentinus,” because of its Latin meaning of “worthy, strong, or powerful,” was quite a popular name between the second and eighth centuries A.D. The saint celebrated on Valentine’s Day is officially known as St. Valentine of Rome, a historical man who died around 270 A.D. Most details about this martyred saint’s life remain unknown, sparking many theories concerning who St. Valentine really was and how his actions led to his death and subsequent beatification.
One of the theories says that Valentine was a Roman priest during the third century. He purportedly defied Emperor Claudius when he stood against the law that made marriage illegal for young men (Claudius thought single men made better soldiers). According to this version, Valentine continued to perform marriages in secret, despite the law, and was put to death after his actions were discovered. Another theory suggests that he may have been killed for trying to help Christians escape Roman prisons. There’s no way to know if either or any of these versions are truly what happened.
At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day, a date which some believe commemorates the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial. Others propose that the date may have been an effort by the church to counter the February 15 pagan Lupercalia festival, which was a Roman celebration of the coming of spring and included performing fertility rites and match-making.
So where’s the love... romance...chocolate?
Those who lived in France and England during the Middle Ages commonly believed that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, echoing a bit of the modern-day Valentine’s Day staple—love and romance. Around 1375, poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in his “Parliament of Foules” a phrase that forever linked the tradition of courtly love and the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day. He refers to February 14 as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. Before his poem was written, no romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day had ever been recorded, but his writing received widespread attention and the holiday became inextricably linked with the celebration of love.