One version of the origin of Valentine’s day goes back to 270 A.D. when a bishop by this name clashed with Roman Emperor Claudius II, who had prohibited young men to marry based on his belief that matrimony would interfere with soldiering. Going behind his leader’s back, the bishop performed covert marriage services for soldiers and for his efforts was sentenced to be executed. While in prison awaiting his execution, he is said to have aided his jailor and the jailor’s blind daughter, while also forming a friendship with the daughter. On his last day on earth, he asked for pen and paper and wrote his farewell message to the daughter, signing it “from your Valentine.” From Rome the tradition of giving Valentines to sweethearts traveled to England and France and by the 1840’s had settled down in the U.S.
I have always thought of Valentine’s Day as a day to honor friendship as well as love. As a child, I remember always looking forward to Valentine’s Day parties in school. Each of us decorated an envelope and wrote our name on it, which the teacher taped to the wall. At some point in the day we were allowed to deliver our Valentines to each others’ envelopes, but had to wait until the school day ended before we could peek into our envelopes and see who had remembered us. As I got older, I remember feeling a lot of uncertainty as to which boys would receive my Valentines and mentally went back and forth on this issue for several days before making my final decisions. On the big day, when at last I had gotten my envelope home, I went into my bedroom, shut the door, and carefully studied each paper treasure I had received. I remember being disappointed when the right boy didn’t give me a Valentine, but I also knew that in grade school most boys weren’t nearly as excited about Valentine’s Day as I was. After a few days my Valentines went into the garbage and these slights soon faded. St. Patrick’s Day was around the corner, and I had to start searching for the perfect green article of clothing to avoid being pinched.