The Sad But Romantic Origin of St. Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day, the day on which we celebrate Romantic (capital R), has a rather sad – though Romantic – origin.

The legend of Valentine is from the time of Emperor Claudius II. He was having problems getting enlistments to his struggling army, so he forbade single men to get married in order to prevent romantic ties from encouraging enlisting in the army.

An early Christian priest, Valentine, saw this as an injustice and so performed secret wedding rituals in defiance of the emperor. When Valentine was discovered, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death by beheading.

While awaiting execution, he fell in love with the daughter of a prison guard, who would visit him. On the day of his death, Valentine left a note for the young woman professing his undying devotion and he signed  it “Love, from your Valentine.”

Father Valentine was made a saint and martyred on February 14 in 269 A.D.

And so began a tradition. Approximately 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged, and that doesn’t include the packaged kids’ valentines for classroom exchanges. That makes Valentine’s Day the second-largest holiday for giving greetings cards after Christmas.

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France Australia, Denmark, and Italy.

Published by

Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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