By TYLER MASK
The month of romance is well underway, and its climax, Feb. 14, better known as Valentine’s Day, is closing in quickly.
Many have heard the name St. Valentine before and attribute Valentine’s Day to him; however, the history behind the holiday and who he was is complicated. According to History, which many know through its History channel, among multiple legends behind the day’s founding, there are at least three historic martyrs, who contend for the title of the true St. Valentine.
One legend claims that Valentine was a third century priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius, believing that unmarried men were better fit to serve in the military, outlawed marriage for young, able-bodied men. Valentine felt that the decree was unjust, and continued to perform marriages for these men in secret. When Claudius discovered what Valentine was doing, he put Valentine to death.
Other accounts posit that Valentine was martyred for helping Christians escape cruel Roman prisons. One legend born out of this account claims that Valentine, while imprisoned himself, sent the first “Valentine” greeting after falling in love with the jailor’s daughter. Before being martyred, legend has it that he wrote her a letter signed, “From your Valentine,” which explains why so many cards include this very phrase today.
To make things more complicated, there is also an ancient pagan festival that claims to be the roots of Valentine’s Day. Although many believe Valentine’s Day is a commemoration of a Christian Saint’s death, others believe that the Christian church placed St. Valentine’s feast on Feb. 15 to Christianize the celebration of Lupercalia, which was a fertility festival in honor of Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.
Lupercalia survived for some time, but it was eventually outlawed during Pope Gelasius’ time when he deemed Feb. 14 St. Valentine’s Day.
Nevertheless, for one reason or another, Valentine’s Day eventually became associated with love.