***image1***Monday is Valentine’s Day, the day to show and receive affection and love. In many countries throughout the world, couples exchange flowers, cards and gifts and have romantic dinners. Also, dear ones such as parents, grandparents, relatives and good friends receive cards and gifts to show they are loved and appreciated.
The tradition of giving flowers goes back to ancient Rome, where a friendly priest called Valentine gave advice to young people, in particular regarding marriage. He did this despite Emperor Claudius’ prohibition. Claudius did not want his legionaries to be tied down to wives and houses, according to Christian customs. But Valentine looked for lovers, found them and married them. He passed out flowers to young couples who walked by the garden of his monastery and asked the men to stay at home rather than go to battle.
One day Emperor Claudius went to meet Valentine and find out about his wisdom. The emperor demanded that Valentine convert to his religion and only then they would be friends. But the priest told him that he never would ask him to convert if he knew about the glory of Christianity. During his visit with Claudius, a council member asked Valentine what he thought of the Roman gods and Valentine answered that they are demons. Immediately, the council requested his death. During a delay, Valentine impressed the emperor with his Christian belief. Claudius was deeply touched, but when Rome’s governor claimed Valentine was a magician, he feared a revolt by his people and passed the priest’s fate to Asterius, a judge.
While standing in front of the judge, Valentine performed a miracle. He made the judge’s blind daughter see again by praying and laying his hands on her. Asterius and his family were baptized after that. But since their new Christian belief was counter to Roman religion, they were tortured and killed. Rome’s governor also decided to torture Valentine and behead him Feb. 14, 269.
Before he was killed, many young people visited him in jail. A jail guard’s daughter came to see him several times. She kept his spirits up and told him that he did the right thing by ignoring the emperor and going ahead with the secret messages. On the day he was to die, he left a note thanking the girl for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it with “Love from your Valentine.” That might have started the custom of exchanging Valentines Feb. 14.
One hundred years after Valentine’s death, he was canonized. In 1550, in memory of Valentine, a memorial chapel was built in Sankt Valentin in South Tyrol, Austria, where visitors can admire a wooden statue of the saint.
Since Valentine’s martyr death, Feb. 14 is observed as a day of love. In former times, the night before Feb. 14, women tied laurel leaves to the four tips of their pillows. This was supposed to be a guarantee for dreaming of their true love. People also believed that a woman would marry the man she would see first in front of her house on Valentine’s Day. This was enough reason for a young man to be out early in the morning and to reassure the feeling of his beloved one with a bouquet of flowers.
In the 18th century, people in love started to send romantic greeting cards. In Germany, recognition of Valentine’s Day started in the 1950s when American Soldiers brought the British tradition to Germany. The Greeting Card Association estimates that one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent world-wide each year, making it the second largest card-sending day behind Christmas.