Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Where on earth did Valentine's Day come from?

Since we have only ten days until Valentine's Day, I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone what the day is really all about, or is it?
There are all kinds of legends about Valentine's Day, why it started, when and how.  Some predate the celebration of that day to early pagan times. But, calling it Valentine's Day originated from the name of a priest who was martyred during the reign Claudius of Rome.

Valentine was a Christian priest, and it is said the emperor Claudius didn't want married men in his army. He reasoned that married men didn't fight as well but some of his soldiers wanted to marry. Valentine defied the emperor and married couple anyway, despite their serving in the army. While he was marrying the soldiers, Valentine tried to convert the emperor to Christianity . When he failed, he was martyred. In 469 AD, February 14th was set aside as the day to honor his death. 

So, why is this the day to declare your love or exchange notes announcing your undying devotion? It seems, or so the story goes, the night before he was killed, Valentine wrote to the jailer's daughter, a young girl who had befriended him, and signed his message, "In love, Valentine".

But the practice of exchanging love messages on the day itself, really didn't start until the end of the middle ages.  The Duke of Orleans, an important French Duke, claims the title of sender of the first Valentine. He was lock up in the Tower of London, after he fought the English - and lost. The Duke thought himself quite a poet, and sent his wife a love poem on February 14th while he was imprisoned.

This is why legends are just that, legends. True, the Duke of Orleans wrote poetry, lots of it. True he married a couple of times but his first wife died three years after the marriage, and long before he fought the English. True he was locked up in the Tower of London as well as a lot of other places while France tried to gather the ransom demanded by the English king. However, was he married at the time he was imprisoned and did he indeed send a love note to his wife on February 14th? The actual recorded time line of his life makes you wonder, because there's no recorded marriage at the time he supposedly sent that poem. However, he is credited with sending the first Valentine.

You decide.

And since that time Valentines of all sizes and shapes have declared a forever kind of love to one's sweetheart.  I couldn't resist using a Valentine which ends up in the wrong hands as a basis for "Roses for my Lady."  And let me assure you, a Valentine has nothing to do with my next book!
But  let me wish you a Happy Valentine's Day, a bit early this year.
Allison Knight



Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Interesting history/legend on the Duke of Orleans.

Many moons ago, my husband sent me a valentine, signed "Guess Whom?". He's kept me guessing ever since.

Rita Bay said...

Great story, Allison. Roman soldiers weren't allowed to marry throughout most of Roman history. Not to say they didn't have families, but they couldn't marry until they retired. When they retired they were given land in the country where they retired which provided some stability in the area. Rita