This year: Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Valentine's Day - the Real Story
Valentine's Day celebrated on 14th of February is a traditional holiday when men and women express their love for each other by offering gifts, usually Valentine's cards, flowers or confectionery. Being perceived as a romantic holiday, many relationships start on St. Valentine's Day - people propose to each other or marry on that day. Sometimes, because of the tradition of giving cards and gifts on Valentine's Day, some mistakenly call it a "Hallmark Holiday", as if it had been created by the greeting card company for commercial reasons. However, the history of St. Valentine's Day goes back to the ancient Romans more than 1900 years ago.
There are three St. Valentines officially recognized by the Catholic Church, but one is commonly associated to the romantic Valentine's Day. It is the bishop Valentine, who lived in ancient Rome and whose story dates back to around 270 A.D. The emperor of the time, Claudius II, had announced that unmarried men made better soldiers than married ones. He declared that the emotional drain of having a wife and children was a distraction to a soldier, causing poor performance on the battlefield. Therefore, the emperor decided to ban marriage for all young men in Rome, enabling him to choose freely soldiers for his army. Feeling that this law was cruel and unfair, the bishop Valentine continued to marry young people despite the established rule. He was executed for defiance of the emperor in 270 A.D. Valentine's crusade in the name of love made him known as the saint protector of love.
While Bishop Valentine was awaiting his execution in jail, he fell in love with the jailer's daughter. Every day he wrote and sent her love letters, signing them "From Your Valentine". This phrase would come into use years after his death.
After he was executed, the Romans began celebrating a pagan festival where young men would draw names out of a bowl, and the girl whose name they drew would become their lover for the coming year. The church was appalled by this festival, which went on for over 200 years. To abolish it, the church then thought of using the story of St. Valentine to do away with the pagan ritual and to bring about a courting season instead. So, in the memory of St. Valentine, in the month of February young men would court women with cards saying "From Your Valentine" and the holiday of St. Valentine's Day was born.
In Canada, St. Valentine's Day is a very popular holiday. Cupid - the little cherub, who uses his magical arrows to make people fall in love with each other, as well as flowers, greeting cards, and candy, are the most well-liked and widespread symbols of St. Valentine's Day. Children celebrate this holiday as well by bringing candy and Valentine cards to their schools, offering them to their friends, teachers, and maybe even their first love!