Why are Hearts Associated with Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is Wednesday February 14th!

Valentine’s Day is the feast day in honor of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century.

Saint Valentine was a bishop in Rome during the reign of Claudius II as the golden era of the Roman Empire was coming to an end. Lack of quality administrators led to frequent civil strife. Education declined, taxation increased and trade diminished. The Roman Empire faced crisis from all sides and had grown too large to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos with existing forces. More and more capable men were required as soldiers and officers to protect the nation from takeover. Claudius felt that married men were too emotionally attached to their families, that marriage made them weak, and thus, not good soldiers. So he issued an edict forbidding marriage in an attempt to assure quality soldiers.

The ban on marriage was a great shock for the Romans. But they dared not voice their protest against the mighty emperor.

The kindly bishop Valentine also felt the injustice of the decree. He saw the trauma of young lovers who gave up all hopes of being united in marriage and agreed to counter the monarch’s orders in secrecy. Whenever lovers thought of marrying, they went to Valentine who met them afterward in a secret place, and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. It was only a matter of time before Claudius came to know of this “friend of lovers,” and had him arrested.

While awaiting his sentence in prison, Valentine was approached by his jailor, Asterius, whose daughter was blind. It was said that Valentine had some saintly healing abilities, so Asterius requested that Valentine restore sight to his daughter. Valentine was able to grant this request and he and the daughter formed a deep friendship.

When Claudius II met Valentine, he was impressed by the dignity and conviction of the bishop. Valentine, however, refused to agree with the emperor regarding the ban on marriage. The emperor tried to convert Valentine to the Roman gods but was unsuccessful in his efforts. Valentine refused to recognize Roman Gods and even attempted to convert the emperor, knowing the consequences fully. This angered Claudius II who gave the order of execution of Valentine.

It caused great grief to Asterius’ daughter to hear of her friend’s imminent death. Just before his execution, Valentine asked his jailor for a pen and signed a farewell message to her “From Your Valentine,” a phrase that lived ever after. Valentine is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD.

Thus 14th February became a day for all lovers and Valentine became its Patron Saint. It began to be annually observed by young Romans who offered handwritten greetings of affection, known as Valentines, to the women they admired on this day. With the coming of Christianity, the day came to be known as St. Valentine’s Day.

But it was only during the 14th century that St. Valentine’s Day became definitively associated with love. UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of “Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine”, credits Chaucer as the one who first linked St. Valentine’s Day with romance. In medieval France and England it was believed that birds mated on February 14. Hence, Chaucer used the image of birds as the symbol of lovers in poems dedicated to the day. In Chaucer’s “The Parliament of Fowls,” the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine’s Day are related:

“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”

By the Middle Ages, Valentine became so popular as to become one of the most popular saints in England and France. The association of Valentine’s Day with romance and courtship continued through the Middle Ages and evolved over the centuries. By the 18th century, gift giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine’s Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts began to be created on this day and offered to the man or woman one loved.

This tradition eventually spread to the American colonies. It was not until the 1840s that Valentine’s Day greeting cards began to be commercially produced in the United States. The first American Valentine’s Day greeting cards were created by Esther A. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, who made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap”. It was when Howland began making Valentine’s cards on a large scale that the tradition really caught on in the United States.

Today, Valentine’s Day is one of the major holidays in the U.S. and has become a booming commercial success. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards sent each year are Valentines. The Valentine’s Day cards are often designed with hearts to symbolize love and Valentine’s Day is now celebrated all over the world.

Excerpted from: http://www.theholidayspot.com/valentine/history_of_valentine.htm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *