Valentines Day, A History

Alright, it’s Valentines Day and you either love it or hate it. I find very few people are indifferent to it. For a self-proclaimed lover of love, I have traditionally fallen into the “hate it” category. As I have gotten older, I have grown to appreciate the history, but still dislike the way the holiday has been commercialized as a day that allows you to apologize for what a jerk you have been the rest of the year. I thought on this day of love, or lack of it, I would give you a brief history.

Valentine’s Day is a mish-mash of traditions and beliefs. Lets start with the date. It falls on February 14th every year because that is the day that Saint Valentine was executed for performing marriages. Strange that a priest got in trouble for doing one of his normal deeds, right? The story goes a little deeper.

In 2nd Century A.D. when Christians were persecuted by the Roman government, Christian marriages and other ceremonies were a big no-no. During that time Claudius II was building a Roman army. He thought that married men would make for distracted soldiers, with their minds back at home with their families and wives. Thus, he forbid young men to marry. Interesting logic right? Sounds like a recipe for rebellion to me! Death was the punishment for any priest that performed the rite of marriage.

This didn’t sit well with Valentine. He believed that to be in love and to be married was to be closer to God. He was a martyr for love! He was caught performing a marriage ceremony and after going to prison he was beheaded. Talk about a rough punishment! This story reminds me a little of the struggle for love and marriage we see today. I won’t go into my political beliefs about marriage rights, but lets just say I think if you want to devote your life and love to another person, I applaud you and believe you have as much right as I to do so.

A few more Valentines Day traditions tie into Saint Valentine. It is said he would give children flowers from his garden. He also signed a message just prior to his execution, “from your Valentine”. I also hear the hearts come from his heart being displayed on the town square or something… Gross? Centuries later, the 1600s ushered in the tradition of giving gifts to your love on Valentine’s Day. Most people gave flowers, but the wealthy surprised their loves with jewelry. Apparently giving a young woman a pair of gloves on Valentines was equal to a marriage proposal…those better be some nice gloves.

As literacy became more common, written Valentines cards and notes became popular and in the 1700 card makers started the commercialization of the holiday with mass-produced Valentines cards. Hello Hallmark!

So today, we woman expect (even if we say we don’t want anything) flowers, chocolates, jewelry or all of the above to celebrate the execution of a lover of love. For years I pretended like I hated Valentines Day, when really what I hated was the missed expectations. Today I try to give myself, and the man in my life, a break. Valentines Day and I have spent too many years on bad terms. This year, I’m going to appreciate the history, the sentiment and the love. Ladies, give your guys a break. Gentleman, don’t let us down. Good Luck!

Happy Valentines Day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s