Valentine’s Day: a national holiday that involves going out to dinner with your significant other and buying them flowers and chocolates, or if you happen to be single that year, a time where you sulk in your loneliness. However, while we are caught up in the commercialization of this holiday, we tend to forget that this day is actually the feast day of Saint Valentine.
Saint Valentine was a priest in third century Rome, which is why he is sometimes called Saint Valentine of Rome. Not much is actually known about Saint Valentine, but one of the most common stories involves him restoring sight to a little girl. Valentine was arrested for helping prisoners, and while he was under arrest, the judge tried to test Valentine’s faith by commanding him to restore the judge’s daughter’s sight. Valentine completed the task, and as a result was released with other Christian prisoners.
Valentine was arrested again for marrying Christian couples and for converting people to Christianity, both of which were illegal at the time. He refused to renounce his faith and was beheaded for it on February 14, 269.
Because not much is known about him, there are other renditions of this story. Some people claim that Saint Valentine secretly married couples so the husbands wouldn’t have to go to war. Another version of this story is that on the day he was executed, Valentine wrote a letter to the girl whose sight he restored and signed it “Your Valentine.”
So how did the feast day of Saint Valentine become a romantic holiday? One explanation is that there was a Roman holiday which was celebrated on February 15. On this holiday, a young man would pick the name of a young woman in a lottery-like system and she would become his sexual partner for the year. The pope and priests did not appreciate this holiday and so they changed the lottery. Instead of picking out a woman’s name, they would pick a saint’s name, such as Saint Valentine, and they would try to emulate that saint for the year.
Others believe that the practice of sending Valentines on February 14 comes from the belief that birds mate on this date.
It is no surprise that Saint Valentine is the patron saint of engaged couples, married couples, happy marriages, love and lovers, but many do not know that he is also the patron saint of beekeepers, greeting card manufacturers, and travelers.
Besides sending cards, flowers, and chocolate to our loved ones on this holiday, there are other traditions that have come out of this feast day. One of these traditions is people pinning bay leaves on one’s pillow on the night before Valentine’s Day, which is supposed to make you see your future spouse in your dreams.
So while you are enjoying that romantic dinner with that “special someone” or even pinning bay leaves on your pillow in hopes of getting a glimpse of your future spouse, remember that this holiday is for a saint who viewed his faith as the most important aspect of his life and died for it as a result.