Who was Saint Valentine?

Every year, we celebrate Valentine’s Day (originally known as Saint Valentine's Day) with hearts, roses, and chocolates.

By: Bailey Gerber & Jake Hreha

Every year, we celebrate Valentine’s Day (originally known as Saint Valentine's Day) with hearts, roses, and chocolates. It’s a holiday dedicated to love – a reminder to appreciate the people who matter to us. But have you ever wondered about the origins of Valentine's Day? Who was Saint Valentine?

The Origins of Valentine's Day?

Due to varying historical records, scholars struggle to pinpoint the “Valentine” recognized by the Catholic church. The official consensus is that he was a martyr who died in the third century around A.D. 270, when he was beheaded for helping Christian couples wed. Prior to the middle ages, this story goes back over 1700 years ago. However, several other accounts about a martyr named Valentine exist, and they all tell slightly different stories:

Some say Valentine was imprisoned and fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. Before he was beheaded, he sent a note to her and signed it “your Valentine.”

Others claim Valentine was killed by Roman soldiers as he tried to help Christians escape the harsh Roman Empire prisons.

Still more people say that Valentine healed a child while he was in prison, leading to a household-wide conversion.

Of all the historical accounts and speculation, one thing is clear: Valentine’s story has little to do with romance. In fact, he was not associated with romantic love until a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, titled “Parliament of Fowls,” referenced Saint Valentine’s Day as a day for birds to choose their mates. From there, the idea took off, and soon nobles were writing “valentines” to their love interests.

The Truth & How We Celebrate Valentine's Day

It is hard to separate the myth of Saint Valentine from the man he was. Even in our historical accounts, he consists mostly of legend. Still, from what we do know, it seems clear that honoring his memory involves more than just celebrating the romance in our lives. Some the early celebrations are believed to be a Christian holiday celebrated with a feast.

People celebrate Valentine's day in many different ways in today's world. Valentine's day gifts range from red roses, to heart shaped chocolates, to full scale meals. Some people take their celebration to another level with gatherings and exuberant decor. Valentine's feast day may be a more fitting name for some of these celebrations. Additionally, many young women today celebrate with a gathering called Galentines. One of the more traditional ways to celebrate Valentine's Day is with Valentine's Day cards. The first mass produced Valentines cards were made in 1847. This day can be celebrated in many ways.

Valentine’s Day, the romantic holiday we now celebrate, is more than roses, gifts, and dinners. It’s about deep, sacrificial love – and you can find it anywhere. This February, we celebrate love – the love of married couples, the love of parents and children, the love of siblings, and the love of best friends. We celebrate God’s love for the world and His love for us.

Valentine's Day history shows that the celebration of the holiday evolves with each generation. What will we look back and remember about how Valentine's Day celebrated love.

Maybe we don’t need to know exactly who Saint Valentine was. Regardless of his true story, every account of his life shows a man deeply committed to his faith – a man willing to put everything on the line for what he believed. That’s a powerful kind of love.

Bailey Gerber

Content Creator, IWU National and Global

Bailey Gerber is a vocabulary geek and grammar enthusiast at IWU – National and Global, so she spends most of her time reviewing webpages, video scripts, flyers, and – of course – blog articles. She loves all things involving words, and in her spare time you’ll find her buried in a book (probably with a cup of coffee in hand).

Jake Hreha

SEO Copywriter, IWU

Jake Hreha is a graduate of Ball State University, where he majored in advertising with a concentration in media presentation and design. He is passionate about design, and in his free time he enjoys cycling, traveling, and reading.

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