Lovers observe Valentine’s Day Saturday

by Petra Lessoing
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Saturday is the day to show and receive love and affection. In many countries all over the world, Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day — the day for lovers and a day of friendship.

Customarily, husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends have romantic dinners and give gifts, candy, cards and flowers.

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

The custom of giving flowers dates back to ancient Rome, where a friendly priest named Valentine gave marriage advice to young people. He did this despite Emperor Claudius’ prohibition. Claudius did not want his legionaries to get — according to Christian customs — 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 to battle.

One day, Emperor Claudius wanted to meet Valentine to find out about his wisdom. The emperor demanded that Valentine believe in Roman gods again. Only then would they be friends. But Valentine told Claudius that he would never ask him to do that 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 are demons. The council immediately requested the blasphemer’s death. During a delay that Valentine asked for, 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 on to Asterius, a judge, to decide 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. Asterius and his family were then baptized. But because 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 on Feb. 14, 269.

Before he was killed, many young people visited him in jail. Also, one jail guard’s daughter came to see him several times. She helped him keep his spirits up and told him 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.” This might have started the custom of exchanging love messages on Feb. 14.

One hundred years after Valentine’s death, he was canonized. In 1550, in memory of Valentine, a memorial chapel was built in St. Valentin in South Tyrol, Austria. There, 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 a woman would marry the man she first sets her eyes on 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 with a bouquet of flowers.

Another legend states the duke of Orleans, while in prison in the Tower of London in 1415, kept sending love letters to his spouse, and not just on Feb. 14. Ever since, he has been credited with the founding of sending valentines.

In the 17th century, author Samuel Pepys from London revived this tradition of writing a love letter, and he sent one to his wife on Feb. 14. She was so thrilled and in turn gave him flowers. The British noble society took over the tradition of giving flowers and sending love notes soon after, and it spread throughout England and France.

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.