Saint Nicholas and Saint Valentine: A Brief History of Two Early Christians Who Inspired Holidays

Famous people have existed throughout history, but two charismatic and holy individuals made their way into sainthood, and in their honor the church has celebrated their feast days. Although these holidays have commercial significance, they are based on the works of Christian men.

Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas, who lived in the third century, was a bishop who was persecuted under the Roman Emperor Diocletcian. He was very charitable and gave his money to the poor. He is the patron saint of children everywhere, and also respected by many people as a great miracle worker. How did this saint become popular in America?

Saint Nicholas Becomes Popular

Many may not know that Christopher Columbus, the great Italian explorer was one of the first to spread the knowledge of Saint Nicholas. December 5th is the real feast of Saint Nicholas and it was on that day that Columbus landed in Haiti where he discovered a natural harbor. He then christened the harbour the port of Saint Nicholas.

It has been said that the early Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam, an early Dutch colony, gave us the modern tradition of Saint Nicholas. The American writer Clement Moore helped to spread the tradition of Santa Claus in his poem The Night Before Christmas. It was during the writing of this poem, that Moore expressed the spirit of Saint Nicholas as we know it today. It is a spirit of visiting children and gift giving.

Saint Nicholas is also an important figure during Christmas because it is a season of giving. Saint Nicholas was said to have given three poor young woman their dowry so they could marry.. Christmas time is also a season of giving not only because of Saint Nicholas but also because of the gifts of the Maji or Three Kings who gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Saint Valentine

This loving and kind man existed around the year 270, and he was a priest who helped some of the early Christians excape persecution. During this time the Emperor Claudius was executing Christians because they believed in Jesus.

Valentine was captured by the emperor’s soldiers and taken to Rome where he was beaten and then be-headed. It was said that he tried to convert the emperor who obviously did not like the idea.. Saint Valentine also believed in marriage and went against pagan customs and united couples in matrimony.

His catacomb was discovered and his feast day became February 14. The early Christian leaders who were inspired by the good deeds of Valentine, took the custom of celenrating the Lupercalia, when young Roman men drew lots for young woman, and turned it into a Christian based custom in honor of Saint Valentine. No longer would the day be celebrated to worship the goddess Februata Juno.

How Some Countries Celebrate Valentine’s Day

According to the Encyclopedia of Britain, in medieval France and England birds were said to begin to find a mate for the spring, and to celebrate messages of love were sent. Dr. Lalit Kishore’s article, Valentine Day Traditions in Europe, states that the people in Catalonia Spain celebrate Valentine’s day by sending books or giving roses. The people of Finland call the day Ystavanpaiva, and they believe it is important to remember friends as well as love ones.

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