January has passed, and as we embrace a new month (February), the calendar reminds us of yet one more holiday… “Valentine’s Day.” The story of Valentine’s Day came about during the Roman Empire, which held a festival during the middle of February; the Lupercian Festival. During this time they honored the God of Fertility, which gave the men a chance to seek out their mate. The Catholic Bishop, St. Valentine then performed marriages, but because Claudius, the Emperor, needed his men to fight… he ordered the marriages to stop, though Valentine secretly continued to marry couples. Once Claudius heard what Valentine was doing… he then had him arrested and ordered his death. While waiting for this day, Valentine began writing letters to the jailer’s daughter, only to have fallen in love with her. Supposedly on his day of execution he signed his last known note, “From your Valentine.” However embellished this particular story may be, there is no doubt that St. Valentine was persecuted as a Christian in Rome and the time was AD 496. Though some of the historical records apparently were destroyed, this ancient memorial took place on February 14th, as he was buried on the Via Flaminia.
Through centuries this story evolved and celebrations varied. It was said that the Bishop wore a purple amethyst ring with an image of cupid on it; thus this was a symbol of love which was legal under the Roman Empire; the soldiers would then recognize it, as they sought someone in order to perform a marriage. According to other legends, the origin of hearts also came from St. Valentine, as he wanted these men to be reminded of their vows and God’s love, it is said that he would cut hearts out of parchment, and then give them to the men.
Once I began my own journey through time… in search for the real story of Valentine’s Day, I realized it’s in the eyes and hearts of the beholder. And while a variation of stories exist today, I believe there is much to be said about true love and sentimental verses which can be found on cards, but never will it compare to the hand-written notes one conveys onto paper with their own hand. One of the earliest surviving valentines that were ever written dates back to the 15th century by Charles’, Duke of Orleans, to his wife. Valentine’s Day is also mentioned by Ophelia in Hamlet (1600-1601):
To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1V, Scene 5
By Popular demand in the U.S. today, Hallmark and other Greeting Card Companies continue to advertise and commercialize on this Holiday, but if you want to remain original and true to you… take the time to write something yourself… express yourself, there is no wrong or right way to tell someone you love them.
Make your week count.