Since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I thought it would be interesting to learn a little more about how and why the holiday first began. Below are three of the legends I found regarding this holiday now known for love and romance.
Once upon a time, in a land far away, lived twin boys named Romulus and Remus. Some believed them to be the children of a hero, others the children of a god, but regardless of their dubious parentage, a king ordered their death. But when a servant took compassion on the boys and sent them floating down the River Tiber instead of killing them, the twins were found and cared for by a lupa, or a she-wolf. The boys lived and grew strong enough to found a city whose name became known across the world.
Years passed, and the two boys became legend, and a festival was held every year in their honor. In this festival, priests made sacrifices and did rather unsightly things with strips of goat hide, all in order to promote the birth of more children to the city’s women. Some disliked this pagan practice and passed a motion to replace this mid-February festival with the feast of Saint Valentine.
Long ago, also in a land far away, there lived a priest named Valentine. A powerful emperor named Claudius, with some rather odd ideas about marriage, decided to outlaw marriage for young men. Valentine, however, continued to marry young couples and also aided Christians who were in trouble for their faith. When Claudius found out about Valentine’s insurrection, he threw him into prison.
Prison didn’t keep Valentine from love, however. As many of the stories go, his jailer had a young blind daughter, and Valentine fell in love with her. The Emperor Claudius had taken a liking to his prisoner, Valentine, so all may have yet been well, but when Valentine tried to convert Claudius to his Christian faith, Claudius promptly ordered his death. On the eve of his execution, Valentine wrote a letter to his sweetheart and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
While in jail, it is said that Valentine also healed the jailer’s daughter of her blindness, paving the way for him to be named a saint after his death. Today, he is considered the patron saint of young people, engaged couples, and happy marriages…and of fainting, epilepsy, and bee-keepers. An interesting combination.
Not quite so long ago, in a land still fairly far away, a man named Chaucer wrote a poem, which he entitled “The Parliament of Fowls.” In it, he said, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” And because Chaucer said this day was when birds begin their mating season, the holiday was ever after linked with romantic love.
What other legends or stories have you heard about how Valentine’s Day began?