Everyone here at Jammy Toast would like to wish all our friends a very happy Valentine’s Day. People make this wish every year and send each other cards but I can’t help but wonder just how many people know where Valentine’s Day comes from or even who Saint Valentine was? Well, in fact, there are numerous early Christian martyrs named Valentine. However, the Valentines honoured on 14th February are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni.
Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred in about AD 269 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. His relics are at the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome. Valentine of Terni became Bishop of Interamna in about AD 197 and is thought to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia.
However, no romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the 14th century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.
Since there is still no connection with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embellished in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to improve the quality of his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown into jail.
There is an additional modern embellishment to The Golden Legend, which is widely repeated despite having no historical basis. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first “Valentine” card himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his beloved, as the jailer’s daughter whom he had befriended. It was a note that read “From your Valentine.”
While sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts is traditional in the UK, Valentine’s Day has various regional customs. In Norfolk, a character called ‘Jack’ Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children. Despite leaving treats, many children are scared of this mystical person. In Wales, many people celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day on 25th January instead of (or as well as) Valentine’s Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers.
The event is banned in some Islamic countries because of conflict with Islamic beliefs and political parties. In Saudi Arabia, in 2002 and again in 2008, the sale of Valentine’s Cards was banned with shops being ordered to remove any red items from sale. In 2008, the ban created a thriving black market in roses and wrapping paper.
Whichever way you decide to celebrate your Valentine’s Day, we hope you all have a great one!