I have two stories that might help answer that question and believe it or not, both tales are firmly rooted in Ancient Rome. One describes the typical kind of love story we frequently watch today in cinemas across the globe. The only difference being instead of it ending all happy-ever-after as Hollywood films like Pretty Woman tend to, the ending to this tale was grim, gory and very bloody.
The other might have elements of truth but now after so much time, how would we ever know for sure.
Which of the two stories will appeal to you as the most likely tale to have inspired the Valentine’s Day we have come to love and celebrate today? You’ll have to read them both and decide for yourself.
It was the 3rd Century and Rome as always, was busy fighting and conquering everyone around it. Meanwhile back in Rome, Emperor Claudius II was unhappy with two monks who just happened to be named Valentine. (What a coincidence!)
Well, yes, you know what’s coming… they were tortured and executed for whatever crimes they were supposed to have committed. One of them being elevated by the Christian church many years later, to the status of saint, hence we have St Valentine.
Again we’re back to the 3rd Century and yes, it’s Emperor Claudius II again and as ever, he’s not happy. This time he’s fuming because he heard reports that a certain priest named Valentine was going against his direct orders that all marriages for soldiers in his army be completely banned.
Valentine had been marrying soldiers and their wives in secret to get around the ban. But then he was caught…
Apparently, Claudius had someone who could “see” into the future who told him that marriage amongst his soldiers would lead to Rome’s defeat in war. So panicked was Emperor Claudius II by this terrible news that he immediately passed his anti-marriage law.
The priest called Valentine was summoned before him and thrown into jail until Claudius had decided how he should die. Not whether or not his punishment should be death, but exactly how he would meet his untimely demise.
However, like all love stories, Valentine fell in love with his guard’s daughter whose task it had been to carry food up to all the prisoners. On one of her visits they both fell in love.
A little while later, she sadly watched as Valentine was dragged from his cell and executed for his ‘crimes’. As she cried and cleared his cell, she found a love-note he had written to her declaring his undying love for her forever.
Oh and the date of his execution?
The 14th February of course! What other day could it have been?
So that is why we buy, write on and send Valentine’s Day cards to those we love. It is one of our oldest celebrations.
There are other supposed tales that could just as easily have been “the one” that inspired Valentine’s Day as we know it today, but it all happened so very long ago that no one, not even history buffs can be certain of its true origin.
So you decide which tale you think is the one most likely to have been the inspiration. While you decide, perhaps you could also think about when or why giving jewellery, flowers, especially roses, and chocolates became such a huge part of Valentine’s Day. Maybe you could be highly creative and write a short story of your own that explains the introduction of diamonds, chocolates and red roses? Some extra writing practice for you.
Do you have any unusual Valentine’s Day customs in your countries? Have you any tales of your own about the possible origins to this winter celebration that we celebrate all around the world?
Finally, do you think Valentine’s Day should become a national holiday everywhere? Most of us might like that idea. Perhaps those who would have to work on that day might not.
Whatever plans you have for Valentine’s Day, have fun and enjoy yourselves.