A Valentine Martyr

Updated: Nov 23, 2019

By José A. Morales: When February 14th comes along, you can usually spot the ones that forgot this date when you visit your local flower shop and see lines of men and women getting roses for their significant other. A card here, some chocolate there, and maybe even a stuffed animal usually represents the totality of Valentine's Day. Yet, the history of Valentine's Day is seemingly lost on the general populace. According to some legends, Saint Valentine, a man admitted into sainthood by the Catholic Church sometime in 354 AD, was martyred (more on that later), and then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome. While there have been varying reports of the identity of Saint Valentine of Rome - this is the most accepted version of history. February was chosen due to the mating season of birds in Rome at the time, this is why the date was attached to St. Valentine's Day. Various stories of the man known as Saint Valentine also correlate to a man placed on house arrest for marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians being persecuted by Emperor Claudius in Rome. Both acts were considered serious crimes during this period. Saint Valentine of Rome was martyred on February 14 in AD 269, the date was chosen by Pope Gelasius the 1st specifically to honor him with a "Feast of Valentine" - however some scholars have attributed both this date and the modern celebration of Valentine's Day as a way to substitute the pagan holiday of "Lupercalia." This was a mid February festival that used sacrifices like goats and other farm animals in order to avert evil spirits and purify the city/village, releasing health and fertility. We may never truly know the full history of Saint Valentine's Day, because of all the information lost to the past and the way historians have written customs and traditions with their own inherent perspective and bias. But we can at least have a good idea on *how* the tradition started and make sense on some of the details surrounding it.

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