Saint Valentine’s Day, February 14, is fast approaching. Although known as a celebration of love, let’s look at the origins of the saint and what he represents.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there are at least three martyrs who bear the name Valentine. Although they died for their love of God, this is generally not the kind of romantic love associated with Valentine’s Day. The site ascribes these romantic links to a practice in medieval Europe to celebrate a day, half way through the second month of the year. This day, February 14, according to the encyclopedia, was believed to be the date that birds would begin to couple. How sweet!
History.com has a slightly different take on the subject. According to its site, at least two of the Valentines recognized by the church displayed romanticism in some form. The first defied Rome by marrying soldiers to their girlfriends after the emperor decided single soldiers fought better.
The second Valentine, according to History.com supposedly sent a love letter from his deathbed to his jailer’s daughter. Wow, a deathbed confession of love – most people get flowers and candy.
History.com, however, goes farther, suggesting that early Christian leaders may have chosen February 14 as a day to commemorate a saint and to “help” pagans adopt more Christian practices. The middle of February was traditionally a time for a festival celebrating both purification of self for spring and fertility.
Below are some fun facts on Valentine’s Day supplied by the Greeting Card Association.
Americans will spend about $16.9 billion for Valentine’s Day
The number one gift is a card, with American’s purchasing about 190 million of them
Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated only in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Italy and Australia
More than 80 percent of the cards are purchased by women for their sweethearts, children and family members
Conversely, men usually purchase just one Valentine’s Day card
About half of all Valentine’s Day cards in the US are mailed through the US Postal Service and the other half are hand delivered
Valentine’s Day ranks as the second most popular card-sending event after Christmas
But the church is not above tipping its hat to romance. The Sunday before Valentine’s Day is World Marriage Day where millions of couples renew their marriage vows during mass.
However you choose to celebrate, remember the effort and thoughtfulness you put into your token means more than the price tag on this day. Happy Valentine’s Day!