Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

A Saint of a Day February 14, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:00 am

Gray Malin Photography

Happy Valentine’s Day! Tis the day when couples celebrate love, family members celebrate each other, and restaurants celebrate the fact that reservations are full and special menus are offered. Celebrated annually on February 14, Valentine’s Day is all about love but shouldn’t its message of love stick around all year? Long after the roses have died, the cards have been tossed or saved, and candies have been eaten, the love behind them should not similarly disappear. That’s how St. Valentine would have wanted it and that’s how he lived. Yes, there was a real man really named Valentine and maybe it’s time to learn about him and why we even have a Valentine’s Day. 

 

 

So who was this Valentine guy anyway? The Catholic Church recognizes several saints named Valentine or Valentinus, but the most popular belief is that Valentine was a third century priest in third century Rome. (Call me crazy but it’s my personal opinion that it’s quite fitting that the Saint of Love comes from Italy!) During that time, Claudius II was emperor and at some point decided that single men made better soldiers than those who were married. He outlawed marriage for young men in hopes of building a stronger military but Valentine strongly believed people should get married and thought the decree was unfair so he continued to secretly marry young couples. When Claudius found out about this, he sentenced Valentine to prison.

 

 

While imprisoned, Valentine was relentlessly asked to renounce his actions and his faith but he refused. Sent to another prison, Valentine is said to have written little messages to family and friends to let them know he was well and that he loved them. He was also befriended by a guard whose daughter was blind. Valentine would preach to and pray with the guard, who had asked Valentine to heal his daughter’s sight. It is said that just days before his execution, Valentine prayed over the girl, touched her eyes, and she regained her eyesight. Word traveled fast, and upon hearing about the miracle, many turned to Christianity. Claudius was not amused or impressed and quickly condemned Valentine to death. The night before his execution, Valentine wrote to the young girl and signed it, “From your Valentine.” The phrase became popular among lovers even back then and today is still used on cards everywhere. Stoned and beheaded on February 14, 269, Valentine was buried near Rome and a Basilica was erected in his honor.

 

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentines didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known Valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture.  Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a Valentine note to Catherine of Valois. The original love note is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.

 

The tradition spread, and by the middle of the 18th century it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the early 1900s, printed cards began to replace written letters thanks to improvements in printing technology. 

 

Americans, however, are thought to have began exchanging hand-made Valentines in the early 1700s and in the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Not only was she the “Mother of Valentines,” but perhaps the first ever scrapbooker!

 

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind only to Christmas and just ahead of Mother’s Day. I personally love the fact that a Catholic tradition and Catholic saint quietly but symbolically are behind a holiday celebrated by all walks of lives and beliefs and even better, one having to do with love. I love it. 

 

 

Valentine’s Days of some sort are celebrated worldwide. In Japan, chocolate is considered even more sacred and “valentine-ish” than in the U.S. while in Denmark flowers are given to loved ones on the holiday. In both Italy and Germany it’s strictly an adult and “lovers only” holiday while Mexico officially calls it the “Day of Love and Friendship.” St. Valentine is considered the Patron Saint of Spring in Slovenia but perhaps the holiday is celebrated in the most grandest of ways in France. In Paris, known as the “City of Love,” couples used to attach locks on the Pont des Arts Bridge and throw keys into the River Seine on Valentine’s Day but the practice was halted due to the weight of the locks and their potential damage to the historic bridge.  The French village of St. Valentin is decked in flowers on Valentine’s Day and is a popular destination for weddings, vow renewals, and engagements. How lovely would that be?!

 

 

St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of love, young people, and happy marriages, which makes me happy being that I was married on February 15. Considering the fact that Valentine saw to it that couples were united in marriage, it makes perfect sense that the holiday of love is named after him. He would have loved it!

 

Valentine’s favorite words were “Love one another as I have loved you” and I’m thinking they’re pretty good words for all of us to live by. On Valentine’s Day and every day.

 

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