By: Naomi Brady, 11th grade
For most, the month of February is synonymous with ‘love’ and, more accurately, receiving candy in hot pink packaging from my friends. For others it’s really just another day, needlessly made glamorous thanks to Hallmark and commercialism.
However, as romantic as February 14 has been categorized as since 17th century England, it doesn’t have especially romantic historical roots- actually, it has slightly depressing ones.
The name “Valentine’s Day” comes from St. Valentine, a person who we do not know much about but have made many educated guesses over time, similar to our knowledge of Shakespeare. The Catholic Church had three different saints named “Valentine,” or something very similar to it (Valentinus) who were eventually killed for what they believed. This makes it kind of tricky to know who the real guy responsible for our precious chocolates and candy-grams is.
Yet historians have a couple theories regarding this most sentimental matter. The first is that when Emperor Claudius II made it illegal for soldiers to marry and have a family, the priest St. Valentine secretly aided young couples in getting married. While harsh, the emperor’s logic wasn’t entirely out of place, because he knew that a family gave soldiers a burden when fighting and dying at war put their family in a tight financial situation. St. Valentine sympathized with soldiers concerning the unfairness of the situation, and when the Emperor found out that Valentine was helping soldiers find their happily ever after, the Emperor had St. Valentine killed… Talk about romance.
The other, slightly more romantic theory is that the ever inexplicable St. Valentine helped people escape from the torturous Roman prisons, an act which caused him to be jailed and eventually killed. The romantic bit, you may ask? Well, he fell in love with the jailor’s daughter, who used to visit him. His last love letter to her, before his life was taken from him, was signed, “From your Valentine,” – recognizably Hallmark’s favorite bit to advertise on Valentine cards.
These theories are some of the more commonly known ones, meaning that there is a plethora out there to explain Valentine’s Day. Some even go back to the Feast of Lupercalia, recognizable to the lovely tenth graders currently reading Julius Caesar. We don’t know for certain who St. Valentine was, but we know this: he believed in and died for true love and happiness – important principles which Valentine’s Day still commemorates after centuries.