Contributed by guest author, Grace Sammons

Vintage engraving Amour tire de l’Almanach des Muses de 1807 (Love pulls from the Almanac of the Muses of 1807)

As we enter the season of rose bouquets and heart-shaped candies, I thought it’d be interesting to share the not-so-lovely story about how Cupid’s holiday came to be what it is today.

The history of Valentine’s day is a bit patchy, with not a whole lot of specific details, but the story is definitely worth a share. So, to start out this story, let’s journey back to 269-270 A.D. during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus. During this time it is said that there were multiple St. Valentines who died on February 14th. While there are handfuls of stories about different St. Valentines, there is one, which happens to be one of the earliest, that is important to our story.

As the story goes, there was a Roman priest that went by the name Valentinus. During the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus, Valentinus was arrested and put into the custody of aristocrat Asterius. While in the Asterius’ custody, Valentinus told Asterius about how Christ lead pagans out of darkness and into the light of salvation. Asterius had a foster-daughter that was blind. This story caught his attention and Asterius told Valentinus that if he could heal his foster-daughters vision, then he would convert to Christianity. Sure enough, Valentinus covered the girls eyes, and prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, en-lighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.” The young girl opened her eyes and just like that her vision was repaired. Staying true to his word, Asterius and his family were baptized but it wasn’t long until this news got to Emperor Gothicus. He was absolutely furious and ordered Asterius, his family, and St. Valentine to be executed. However, St. Valentine was the only one to be beheaded. His body was carried off by a widow who buried his body on the Via Flaminia, which is an ancient highway that stretches from Rome to present-day Rimini.

There are other stories very similar to this one. It is suggested by the Bollandist, a group of Belgian Monks who have spent centuries researching and collecting evidence on the lives of Saints, that maybe there wasn’t quite as man St. Valentine’s as we thought, but different versions of one saint’s legend appeared in different parts of the world. That being said none of stories suggest that Saint Valentine was actually a romantic. So where exactly did the current day romantic traditions come from?

Fast forward to the late 1300s, when author Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem called “Parlement of Foules”. Within this poem he wrote, “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.” This line suggested that in February, the birds would pair up and go off together to produce eggs.

After the poem, Europeans began sending love notes during the bird-mating season. Later came Shakspeare’s Hamlet where Ophelia referred to herself as Hamlet’s Valentine. Since then, it became more and more popular to exchange romantic words or gifts with your loved ones during bird-mating season.

And finally that brings us to today. We now use the day February 14th as a day of love. Couples and loved ones of all ages, all around the world use this day to show their loved ones how much they mean to them!

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