Valentine's Day
By: Deborah L. Lee

There are various opinions regarding the origin of Valentine's Day. Over a period of time, February 14 gradually became the date for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. The date was marked by sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers. There was often a social gathering or a grand ball. The spirit of good continues as valentines are sent out with sentimental verses and children exchange valentine cards at school.

In the United States, Miss Esther Howland is given credit for sending the first valentine cards. Commercial valentines were introduced in the 1800's and now the date is very commercialized. The town of Loveland, Colorado, does a large post office business around February 14.

The Legend of Saint Valentine's Day

The story of Valentine’s Day begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor Claudius II and a humble Christian martyr Valentinus.

Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and he had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ and not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned.

During the last weeks of Valentinus’s life a remarkable thing happened. The jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia, might be brought to Valentinus for lessons. She had been blind since birth. Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind. Valentinus read stories of Rome’s history, described the world of nature to her and taught her arithmetic. More importantly, he told her about God. She saw the world through his eyes, trusted his wisdom, and found comfort in his quiet strength.

She had asked Valentinus if God answered prayers and Valentinus told her that God hears each one. Julia shared with Valentinus that she prayed every morning and every night that she would be able to see – to see everything that he told her about. They prayed together and suddenly there was a brilliant light in the prison cell. At once, Julia cried out, “I can see! I can see!”

On the eve of his death, Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God and he signed it, “From your Valentine!!!”

His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D. It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship. On each February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, messages of affection, love and devotion are exchanged around the world.