Considering that around 278 A.D. a fellow named Valentine was beheaded, celebrating a day set aside for his honor seems valid. After all, he was a Christian who was later elevated to sainthood. It’s simply baffling that his day would turn into a celebration of love – complete with hearts and a proliferation of all things red.
I’m sure there was a bit of blood at Valentine’s execution, which would explain the red. But there’s no mention of his heart having a special significance in his ordeal.
In researching the life of this poor fellow – ruthlessly executed at the behest of Claudius the Cruel – I find nothing about flowers and candy. I’m not sure if the tradition of flowers at a funeral and on grave-sites had yet begun in 278.
So, if you’re like me, you’re wondering how this brutal execution turned into a day when lovers of all ages bestow gifts on one another. This day will be loaded with cards, candy, flowers, and candlelit dinners… all in celebration of a man’s bloody death.
Okay, enough suspense. Here’s the rest of Valentine’s tale of woe.
It seems that Claudius the Cruel didn’t get along with anyone. He had a number of bloody and unpopular wars going on. Soon, he began having problems getting men to serve in his army. He believed that young men with wives and children were afraid to die. (What an interesting concept! But what about young men without wives and children?)
He did the only just and proper thing – he banned marriage for young couples. Old and decrepit people were free to enter into matrimony and raise families… if they were still capable of such things.
An interesting side note to this is how many religious cults have died off because their leaders decided that children were no longer needed.
At any rate, Valentine, a holy priest, disagreed with the emperor and continued to marry young couples. Although he tried to keep his defiance secret, someone let the news get to Claudius. Valentine was immediately imprisoned and sentenced to death.
According to legend, during his stay in the prison, he found himself having strong feelings for a daughter of one of the jailers. Had Claudius granted Valentine a stay of execution, he may have started sending flowers and candy to her… if only there was a day set aside for such things.
The last part of the legend is that the priest sent a final note to the young lady and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
Based on the legend, the connection between a beheading and a day of celebration for lovers is perfectly clear. However, the part about the jailer’s daughter is pure legend. If there was such a note, it has long ago turned into dust… just like good old Saint Valentine.
I could mention that there were two other men named Valentine who are often confused with the one who was elevated to sainthood. Each of them had some significant event on February 14th. But then again, so did Al Capone.