You couldn’t tell by the way we celebrate today, but Valentine’s Day was originally a Christian holiday. The details are steeped in legend, but here is our best guess how Valentine’s Day originated.
There was once a man named Valentine who lived in Italy long, long ago. Valentine served as a priest and when he refused to worship Roman gods, he was put in prison. One legend has it that Valentine appeared before Emperor Claudius, whom he tried to convert to Christianity. In anger Claudius sentenced Valentine to death.
While a prisoner, Valentine became friends with the jail keeper’s daughter and they would exchange notes through the bars of his cell. Even though Valentine was a prisoner, the girl was still kind to him.
The day of Valentine’s execution eventually came. The night before his death, he wrote a final note to his little friend, thanking her for being kind to him. He signed the note, “Your Valentine.”
Every year on the anniversary of Valentine’s death, people began to give each other notes to say how much they cared, and they called the notes Valentines. The church named Valentine a Saint and declared February 14th to be his Holy Day.
…and at no additional cost, here is the best Valentine’s song ever. (Thanks to My Valentine for introducing me to Steve Earle.)