Valentine's Day is celebrated on 14th February, the feast day of St. Valentine. It is a traditional celebration in which lovers, partners and married couples express their love and affection for each other. In some countries it is known as The Day of Lovers or The Day of Love and Friendship.
These days it is celebrated with the exchanging of cards known as valentines, with patterns on of hearts or Cupid; but with the rise of the Internet the custom of exchanging virtual cards has also increased. Common as well is the tradition of giving roses or tokens of love
Why do we celebrate Valentine's Day and how did it start?
Pope Gelasius declared 14th February St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. Various theories exist regarding how Valentine's Day started and one of those describes a story that mixes drama with romanticism, whereas others claim that the celebration came about due to a pagan festival that was Christianized
Who is St Valentine?
The Catholic Church recognizes 11 Saint Valentines and 14th February celebrates at least three of them:
1) Valentine of Rome: a roman priest who was martyred around the year 269 and was buried on Via Flaminia. His relics can be found in the Church of Saint Práxedes in Rome and in the Carmelite church of Whitefriar Street in Dublin (Ireland).
2) Valentine of Terni: around the year 197 he was named bishop of Interamna (now called Terni). He is also buried on Via Flaminia, but in a different place to Saint Valentine of Rome. His relics can be found in the Basilica of Saint Valentine of Terni.
3) A third saint called Valentine (according to the Catholic Encyclopedia) was mentioned in the early martyrologies under the same date (14th February). It only states that he was martyrized in Africa with some companions.
What is the the history of St Valentine?
There are various legends regarding the history of St Valentine; the only thing that can be said for sure is that there is lots of mystery and his exact story is not very clear. One of the most well-known legends dates back to Rome in the 3rd century. In this period, soldiers were not allowed to get married because it was believed that single men were better soldiers in battle than those that were married, because they were emotionally attached to their families. Faced with this situation, the figure of the Christian priest Valentine appeared, who considered the obligation on soliders not to marry to be injust. He therefore decided to unite partners in matrimony with the Christian blessing. Through his actions, he emerged as the protector of those in love, because he carried out secret marriages all over Rome, until he was summoned by the Emperor Claudius II.
Asterius, a deputy of Rome, was responsible for the condemned Valentine. He made fun of Christianity and put Valentine to the test, asking him to return the sight of his daughter who was born blind. The priest accepted and performed the miracle. Asterius and his family became Christian, but they could not save Valentine from death, and he was executed on 14th February. Two centuries afterwards, the Catholic church revived the story and shortly afterwards, Valentine was canonized.
Another legend claims that St Valentine wrote the very first 'Valentine' himself, when he fell in love with a young girl (possibly the daughter of Asterius) who visited him in prison. Before his death, it is said that he wrote a card to her which he signed 'From your Valentine', an expression which is used a lot in current day Valentine messages. Because of these stories, without even asking for it, St Valentine became a patron saint for all people in love and in friendships.