The genesis of this day of celebrating love is among those dates clouded in a mist of uncertainty. Among the most convincing tales surrounding Valentine’s day is that it is a commemoration of the martyrdom of a Christian who refused to recant his faith in Jesus Christ. This beleiver, named Valentine, was killed for his faith (perhaps also because as a temple priest, Valentine had defied the Roman Emperor Claudius) on February 14, 269 AD. It is said, in this version of the story, that the daughter of his jailer had befriended him and before his death, left her a farewell letter in which he closed with, “From Your Valentine.”
According to history, the Queen of Roman gods and goddesses, known as Juno, was honored every February 14th. It had become the custom for young girls to write their names on slips of paper and young men would draw these names from their container. During the festival that followed the following day, known as Lupercalia, the boy and girl matched by the paper slip would participate in the festivities together. Tradition has it that eventually some of these pairs would fall in love and even marry. Over time, Popes of the Roman Catolic faith were apt to replace pagan festivals with celebrations of their own faithful followers. Thus was the case in 496 AD when Pope Gelasius decreed that February 14th of each year would be a day of memorial to honor Saint Valentine.
Over time, Valentine became regarded as the patron saint of lovers and a custom of exchanging messages of love and friendship emerged. These simple yet intimate messages of endearing love were soon followed by poems, gifts and flowers.Modern commercialism has greatly affected the way in which Saint Valentine’s memorial is celebrated, but the central theme of love and friendship remains.
Of course, as is the case with many ancient customs and traditions, the actual source of the celebration is a matter of acedemic contention. Regardless of the exact history behind what is known today as Valentine’s Day, it would be wise not to engage in intellectual debate over its origins of February 14th. Instead, those who have a special love interest in their life would be well advised to leave history to scholars and arrive on time and with a token of love and gratitude. Such an act will honor the memory of Saint Valentine and keep the celebration a joyous one.