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History of St. Valentine's Day

The Link Between Spring and Romance Dates Back to Antiquity

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There are two theories about the origin of Valentine's Day. The first concerns a Roman named Valentine; to make things even more confusing, there are at least three separate versions of who Valentine was. The most romantic portrays him as a physician who lived during the time of Emperor Claudius. A gastronomist, Valentine fell afoul of the Roman authorities when he converted to Christianity, and subsequently began treating the blind daughter of one of the Emperor's prison guards. Discovered, Valentine was arrested and executed when he refused to renounce his religious beliefs. The condemned physician had fallen in love with his blind patient, and just before his death - on February 14, in 269 or 270 AD - he is supposed to have sent her a note, signed "from your Valentine."

Other Stories About St. Valentine

In another version, Valentine was a priest who violated Roman law by marrying Christian couples. There was a period of time when marriage was forbidden, as Claudius had decided single men made better soldiers, since they weren't distracted by thoughts of their families back home. Valentine's defiance of the law led to his being beaten and beheaded. Yet another version says Valentine was a bishop of Terni. What is certain is that a person by the name of Valentine existed and was persecuted for his Christian beliefs.

St. Valentine's Day Traditions

Some of the traditions associated with Valentine's Day can also be traced to the Feast of Lupercalia, a love festival honoring a pagan Roman god. Traditionally held for two weeks beginning on February 15th, in 496 AD Pope Gelasius changed the date of the festival to the 14th, in order to try and limit its more pagan elements. Instead, the celebration of love and the commemoration of Valentine (whom the Pope canonized at the same time) became forever linked.

"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction." (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

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