Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?

According to ancient Church tradition, there are no fewer than 8 men by the name of Valentine. Seven of them had feast days on February 14. These men lived in different parts of the world- Belgium, Africa, Spain and France. But the 2 best known were from Italy-a priest who was executed in Rome in 269 and a bishop who also lived in the 3rd century. Valentine’s Day is not recognized by the Episcopal Church. In fact, this holiday is not widely celebrated around the world. In America and England is the day marked as a day for lovers. The first record of people sending “Valentines” comes from England in the 1400’s. There are many stories about St. Valentine- here are a few. 

1. One legend says that Valentine, the priest in 3rd century Rome secretly married young couples even though the Emperor Claudius had temporarily forbidden it. Claudius was at war and he believed that bachelor soldiers would fight harder. When Claudius discovered what Valentine had done, he beheaded him.

2. Another legend says that while Valentine was in prison, he fell in love with the blind daughter of the jailer and he cured her through prayer. On the day of his execution, he sent her a farewell love note and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

3. Other stories link Valentine to love festivals in Ancient Rome that occurred during February. February 14 was a Roman holiday celebrating fertility. It honored Juno Februata, a goddess of love. In an attempt to transform this pagan holiday, Pope Gelasius (496 AD) declared that February 14 would be the feast day of St. Valentine. Early Christians celebrated this as a day of love, instead of recognizing the pagan feast.

4. In 14th century England, it was believed that birds chose their mates on February 14. It was suggested that humans should do the same. In the same context, the kind of bird seen by a young woman on Valentine’s Day was thought to be prophetic. If she saw a blackbird, she would marry a clergy person, a goldfinch-a millionaire; a bluebird- a poor man. And if she saw a flock of doves on that day, she would have good luck in marriage.

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