The gift of Saint Valentine
By Chris Bonham, Intern Writer
February. A simple mentioning of the month conjures up images of hearts, love, and having a great time with friends. We think of Valentine’s Day, and the joy and happiness that it brings.
Okay, so maybe a few people won’t be feeling so romantic when this second month in the year rolls around. But even those who are not big fans of the holiday would admit that Valentine’s Day has a very interesting history. Some might argue that Valentine’s Day has one of the most interesting, yet unknown, histories of all the holidays celebrated in the United States.
Back in 270 A.D., an emperor named Claudius II ruled the Roman Empire. Claudius made a decree throughout his kingdom that no wedding ceremonies could be performed. The emperor believed that his soldiers were reluctant to leave their homes because of their wives, so Claudius thought he could eradicate the problem with his new law.
One man, however, decided that the imperial decree was wrong and believed that people should be free to marry if they wished. This man was named Valentine. Being the Bishop of a city called Interamna, Valentine told any young couples in the area that wished to be married to come to him and he would perform the marriage ceremony for them.
This carried on for quite some time. Young men and women would come from all over the Roman Empire to be wed by the Bishop. Claudius eventually found out about the secret ceremonies, and he had Valentine brought before him.
During the trial, Claudius was very impressed with Valentine’s conviction. The emperor attempted to persuade Valentine to leave his Christian faith and follow the gods of Rome. If Valentine would agree to Claudius’ proposal, then he would receive a pardon for his disobedience.
Valentine also had great conviction about his faith, and refused the emperor’s offer many times. Frustrated, Claudius condemned the Bishop to be executed. Valentine was thrown in prison while he awaited the sentence to be carried out.
In prison, Valentine befriended the jailer. He also fell in love with a girl named Asterius, who happened to be the jailer’s blind daughter. Valentine is also said to have prayed over the girl, restoring her sight.
February 14 – the day of Valentine’s execution – rolled around. Just before he was taken to be beheaded, Valentine wrote Asterius a farewell note. The note was signed, “From your Valentine.” Claudius died not long after Valentine’s execution, and the emperor that followed revoked the marriage decree of his predecessor.
So, while you celebrate Valentine’s Day by handing out cards to classmates, spending time with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or by giving your mom a bouquet of flowers, just remember that we are really celebrating the death of a man who loved people so much that he laid down his life for them. Now that’s true love.