Remembering the real Valentine

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Many of us have tapped our feet and snapped our fingers to the lyrics of Nat King Cole.  You know, “L is for the way you look at me.”  Yes! “Love was made for me and you.” This song seems to be on repeat during the month of February, or I should say, the month of L-O-V-E.  But when did this all begin? Who was this lucky lady that received so much love on Feb. 14 that we all decided to keep the tradition of roses and gifts going?

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Cartoon by Kyle Weidner

Quite a few stories  exist about Mr. Valentine’s day of dedication. Yes, Valentine was a male. Saint Valentine, or Valentinus according to The History Channel’s website,, is a mystery. No one is sure which Valentine is responsible for this special day in February, but it is certain that all Saint Valentines were martyrs. How could any man be sentenced to death for gifting puppies, chocolates and roses? It’s just cruel.

Not exactly, the Valentine’s Day that we have come to love would be looked at a bit strangely by any of the late Valentines. Their stories were of love and disobedience, not chocolate and diamonds.

The Catholic Church recognizes three Saint Valentines who could be responsible for this day. The first possible Valentine, who I believe is not responsible for this day, was a priest. He believed that Christians in the Roman prisons were being treated cruelly and tortured. This Valentine took it upon himself to help these Christians escape, therefore he was put to death.

Being a hopeless romantic, I cannot see this romantic day being named after this Valentine.  I do not disagree that his services were noble, but I am not sure they were worthy enough for national recognition.

The second Valentine was also a priest. His story corresponds with the holiday a little better than the previous Valentine. He existed during the third century in Rome, when Emperor Claudius II ruled. According to legend, the Roman Empire instructed single men that they could no longer be wed. Claudius believed that single men made better soldiers than married men. Seeing the injustice in this ruling, Valentine decided to marry couples in love against these orders. Valentine was captured and put to death.  It seems to me that this Valentine believed in true love and happily-ever-after endings. He put his life on the line in the name of love. More importantly, he put his life on the line in the name of someone else’s happiness. Does this not sound more like the meaning of Valentines Day?

The third Valentine, was a prisoner. This Valentine was locked away in a jail cell waiting to be put to death when he found his true love. His jailor’s daughter visited the prison and occasionally spoke to the futureless Valentine. He fell in love with her, and before his death sentence wrote what I imagine would be the deepest most heartfelt love letter signing it “From Your Valentine.” How could this Valentine not be the one Valentine’s Day is named after? It has to be.

From history we see that love always has been in the air, even when we did not have the wise words of Nat King Cole to make us believe in “this game for two.” This does not mean that love was any less important then.

Valentine’s Day may have evolved into what many people see as hyper commercialized, but has it really?

Today, a gift is a way to show someone you appreciate or love him or her. In the past, our ancestors showed affection differently. A gift was not necessary. And although it does get annoying to hear love songs and see big bears all around us during this month, instead of thinking that someone’s wallet has just emptied, the next time you see roses you should think someone is sacrificing something and may be about to fall in love.


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