Do you know the history of Valentine’s Day?

Published 12:11 am Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hopefully we are out of the cold spell, at least for the week. I have had several calls wondering about the impact all this cold will have on trees, lawns and shrubs. The answer is nothing more than usual. Although we have had an extended cold spell with ice, sleet and sprinkles of snow, it has not been cold enough to cause any damages to our already dormant plants and lawns. Unfortunately this kind of weather affects us more than it does our landscape.

Today I figured I would provide a more interesting story that affects us all. The origin of Valentine’s Day often remains misunderstood and unclear but regardless, Monday over one billion cards and flowers will be distributed worldwide. So here is a little history on the day of romance.

Q.Who was Valentine?

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A.To find this answer you must go all the way back to the Roman Empire. Claudius II was the Emperor in Rome in the third century. Needing a stronger army, he outlawed marriages and declared all young men would stay single. He claimed without families, men would make better soldiers thus provide him with a stronger army.

During this time a priest, named Valentine, disagreed with this injustice. Valentine continued to perform secret marriages for young lovers. Once Claudius learned about this, Valentine was arrested and put in jail then later order to be executed.

While in jail Valentine grew fond over a girl who was believed to be the jailers’ daughter. She would come and visit him regularly during his confinement. Soon Valentine was ordered by the Emperor to be executed. Before his death, Valentine asked for a pen and wrote a letter to the jailers’ daughter thanking her for her friendship. On the bottom of the letter he signed the now famous phrase ‘From your Valentine.’

Q.Why is Valentine’s Day celebrated on February 14?

A.There are three possible answers for this question. First during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that the middle of February was the beginning of birds’ mating season. Therefore the idea that Feb. 14 should be a day for romance was adopted.

Then in ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Feb. 14 was a day to honor Juno, the goddess of Women and marriage. The next day, Feb. 15, was the start of the Lupercalia festival, a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. To begin the festival all the teenage women of the city would have their name put in an urn. The bachelors would chose a name out of the urn and be paired for the year with the name selected. This act was later outlawed by the clergy and deemed un-Christian. So to put a positive perspective over a bad tradition in 498 A.D. Pope Gelasius officially declared Feb. 14 St. Valentine’s Day.

But who was St. Valentine you ask? After Valentine the priest was arrested by Emperor Claudius II for performing secret marriage he was ordered to be executed. And what day was he executed on, you guessed it Feb. 14, 269 A.D.

David Carter writes a weekly column for The Democrat.