For some reason, every year right around the month of February, I always seem to be humming Tom Jones’ disco version of the song, “Love Is in the Air.” For many, love really is in the air. But to keep your hearts grounded for the time being, here’s a brief history of St. Valentine’s Day:
Every February 14, across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from? The history of Valentine’s Day –and its patron saint—is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated? Today, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One legend has it that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl—who may have been his jailor’s daughter—who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legend is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and romantic figure.
While some believe that Saint Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial—which probably occurred around 270 AD—others claim that the Christian Church may have decided to celebrate Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.
So there you have it, the story of Valentine. For many, love really is in the air. But for many others, it really isn’t! Sometimes, hearing all this talk about love, and seeing so many valentine cards (or not getting any) can actually make us sick. And, for those feeling lonely around this time of year, Valentine’s Day is often re-named, “Singles Awareness Day!” Whether or not you celebrate this commercial holiday, know that love really isn’t in the air! Love came down with Christ. For us as a body of believers, love is in God and in one another!
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4: 7-12
In the Love of Jesus,