For those of you at Smith Mountain Lake who have wondered where Valentine’s Day originated, I have endeavored to find out the real story. However, as is often the case with trying to track down the roots of a tradition, the actual facts are somewhat vague. There seem to be at least 3 different Saint Valentines from the same period in history. My personal favorite of the tales, happens to be the one that many of the scholars say may be based on truth. The story may have gone something like this:
In Rome around 270AD there lived a Christian priest by the name of Valentine. Christianity was not popular with many of the Emperors of the Roman world at the time, as many of them tended to consider themselves a deity to be worshipped by the people. And also many Romans considered Christianity a threat to the many gods and goddesses of the day.
Although he had been warned to stop his teachings about Jesus, Valentine refused to give it up. So Claudius II had him arrested and ordered to recant his Christian faith. This Valentine also refused to do and thus was thrown in prison. While in prison Valentine befriended the jailers daughter in some fashion (some believe by healing some ailment of hers through prayer), and they became fast friends and perhaps more.
Emperor Claudius eventually sentenced Valentine to death when he would not renounce his faith. Before he was martyred on February 14th, Valentine wrote a farewell letter to his beloved friend, the jailers daughter, and signed it, “from your Valentine”.
Many years later the man was honored by the church and became Saint Valentine, the patron saint of love. It wasn’t until sometime after the 14th century when Valentine’s Day became associated with romantic love. The poet Chaucer linked the day with passion in 1381 when he composed a poem in honor of the engagement between England’s Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. As was the poetic tradition, Chaucer associated the occasion with a feast day and the time when birds choose their mates.
Whatever it’s origins, I think we can all agree that it is a wonderful tradition with many exciting possibilities. May the love of God and your fellow man be the guiding force in your life. Happy Valentine’s day!