Why You Can Never Forget Saint Valentine’s Day
Posted on 03/02/2022
Ok all you partners and spouses out there in Canada and around the world. Do you know your loved ones birthday? Check! Did you get them a gift? Check! Did you remember your wedding date? Please say you did! At least cook something tasty or go out for a nice meal on your anniversary. Check!
Now, the big date. February 14. Do. Not. Forget.
Why such a fuss for a day dedicated to a long-ago-martyred saint?
Because unlike birthdays or anniversaries, everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day on the same day, obviously. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and any other platform are filled with photos of a happy outing, or wonderful gift and the spouse beaming contentedly. Right? So, if you happen to forget to celebrate Valentine’s Day, you will be singled out like a COVID super-spreader bathed in shame for not appropriately adoring the one who makes it all worthwhile. Right?
How then did we end up pouring all our expectations of love and happiness into a day when an early Christian was dismembered by severe Roman officials wearing silly headgear?
Let’s find out.
Who indeed was this Saint Valentine?
We’re not actually sure. However, evidence – much of it written down a couple of hundred years after the historical martyrdom – seems to point to either one or two (or even three) early church members.
- A priest (possibly named Valentinus) from the Roman Province of Africa (essentially North Central Africa, nowadays centered around Tunisia).
- Valentinus, a priest of Rome.
- Valentinus, a bishop of Terni, a city in Umbria in central Italy. (They could be the same person of course if Valentinus had been a priest who was then promoted to bishop of Terni).
- In the hagiography of Saint Valentine, there’s a story of a Roman Judge and his blind daughter with the laying of hands by Valentinus and her sight miraculously restored. It then describes Valentinus demanding the repentant Judge destroy the Roman icons in his house and take baptism. Not a good way to endear yourself to the Roman Emperor who was of course considered a sort of deity himself.
- Emperor Claudius II supposedly took a liking to this believer who had been hauled before him for evangelizing and offered to spare him if he renounced his faith. Otherwise, he would be beaten with clubs and beheaded. Valentinus refused to renounce his faith, so the execution was carried out as prescribed in the year AD 269 (Or 270, or 273). Do you care to guess what day it was?
- In what is probably legend and not fact, Valentinus supposedly wrote a letter to the formerly-blind daughter of the judge, and he signed it: Your Valentine.
- There is another legend that as a bishop or priest who married Christian couples, he would cut out heart shapes from parchment to remind them of their vows and God’s love.
How did a Martyr become a Master of Love?
Saint Valentine first appeared as a martyr in a compilation of martyrs attributed originally to Saint Jerome, and whose later versions appeared around the 5th and 6th centuries AD. But the real transformation of the martyred saint to a symbol of spousal love came over 700 years later coinciding with the age of chivalry, not surprisingly. We have English poet Geoffrey Chaucer to thank/blame for that. It was his quill that bound up the beheading of the believer with those who fall head over heels in love, and it was Chaucer who apparently converted the date of February 14 into one of romantic love through his poetry in the 1300s.
Do people really care about all this history?
No, most people don’t.
Do spouses really care if you forget?
Absolutely. So. Don’t. Forget. February. 14th. Ever. There are many ways you can make the gesture. Cards with flowers. Chocolates. Plus, a nice meal out. The importance is to make the gesture, even if it’s a blizzard outside and you have a 10-kilometre drive to the nearest Shopper’s Drug Mart to pick up a card and some chocolates. Else you will be verbally clubbed senseless with guilt and your self-image of a good spouse will be severed from your ego and will drop to the floor with a thud.
Posted in Tips