***image1***Red hearts in window displays signal Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Feb. 14 is the day to show and receive affection and love. In many countries throughout the world, husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends exchange flowers, cards and gifts. Other dear ones such as parents, grandparents, relatives and good friends are also included in the tradition of giving gifts.
The custom of giving flowers goes back to ancient Rome, where a friendly priest called Valentine gave advice to young people regarding marriage. He did this despite Emperor Claudius’ prohibition.
According to Christian customs, Claudius did not want his legionaries to get tied to wives and houses. But Valentine was looking for lovers, found them and married them. He passed out flowers to young couples who were walking by the garden of his monastery and asked the men to stay at home rather than go out to battle.
Emperor Claudius wanted to meet Valentine and find out about his wisdom. The emperor requested Valentine to believe in Roman gods again, then they would be friends. But the priest told him that he never would ask him to do so if he knew about the glory of God and his son Christ.
During his visit with Claudius, a council member asked Valentine what he thought of the Roman gods. Valentine answered that they were demons. The council immediately requested the priest’s death.
During a delay, Valentine impressed the emperor with the truth of Christian belief. Claudius was deeply touched, but when Rome’s governor said Valentine was a magician, Claudius feared a revolt by his people and passed the priest to Asterius, a judge, to decide on his fate. 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 head. Asterius and his family got 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. One hundred years later, Valentine was canonized.
In 1550, in memory of Valentine, a memorial chapel was built in St. Valentin in South Tyrol, Austria. Visitors can admire a wooden statue of the saint.
Since Valentine’s death, Feb. 14 has been 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 guarantee a dream of their true love.
People also believed that a woman would marry the first man she saw 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.