Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's That Time of Year Again. . . .

. . . when people's minds are on flowers and chocolate and kisses... and wuv. Twue wuv :P It's the day we set apart for everything lovey-dovey. It's the day many people end up engaged. It's the day that young men feel obligated to give their sweetheart something --- be it roses, or candy hearts, or a fancy dinner out.

But why? Where in the world did we come up with this holiday? How did February 14th come to hold so much importance in the romantic area?

       Well, it all started in Rome, a very long time ago. During the third century, in fact. 

At  that time, Rome was ruled by an emperor named Claudius. He wanted to have a huge army. And expected men to readily volunteer to join. But. . . not surprisingly, a lot of men just didn't have any desire to fight in wars. They didn't want to have to up and leave their wives and children. Soooo. . . not many men signed up to be a part of Claudius's army. This made Claudius very upset, indeed. He was used to getting exactly what he wanted. So, after thinking on it a while, Claudius had a crazy idea. An outlandish and radical idea. The men did not want to leave their families. . . So Claudius decided they wouldn't be allowed to have the families in the first place. If the young men were unmarried and didn't have any strong family ties holding them back, then they would be much more willing to go off to war. So Claudius declared that there would be no more marriages. None.

       Well, as you can probably imagine, this made lots of people extremely upset. This new law was completely ridiculous and everyone knew it. But there wasn't really much the people could do about it. Many priests just obeyed Claudius's cruel regulation even though they knew it was wrong. 

       But there was one priest --- his name was Valentine --- who decided that he could not, in good conscience, support such a crooked law. So he kept right on performing marriage ceremonies. Only now, he did it in secretly; in a small room at night, with only the bride and groom and himself. The young lovers had to whisper their vows because there was always the foreboding risk that soldiers were listening. 
       One night, as Valentine was performing a wedding, they heard the footsteps of soldiers coming. The bride and groom ran away and escaped, in the nick of time. But Valentine was not so fortunate. The soldiers grabbed the man and threw him into prison. Valentine was told that he would die for his crimes. 

       It was dismal in prison, but Valentine did his best to stay light-hearted. He knew that this was God's will for him, and he accepted that. He did not regret his faithfulness; Even though it was disobedience to his earthly ruler, he was obeying his heavenly Father. And not everything was miserable. Young people all over Rome knew of Valentine and his bravery. They came very often, bringing flowers, or notes of encouragement, which they threw into Valentine's prison window. They wanted the priest to know that they were thankful to him; that they, too, believed in the importance, and the sanctity of marriage. 

       One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. She went nearly everyday to visit Valentine. They became great friends and would sometimes talk for hours. She was like sunshine in Valentine's dark cell. She kept his spirits up with her conversation and her support. She believed that he was completely right to disobey the selfish emperor, and to keep on with the wedding ceremonies. 

       On February 14th, 269 AD, the day that Valentine was beheaded for his steadfastness, he left a little note for his friend, the jailor's daughter. In the note, he thanked the girl for her friendship and her loyalty to him. He told her that she had been a great encouragement and comfort to him. And then he signed it, "With Love, Your Valentine." 

       And so, as the legend goes, people began exchanging love messages and small tokens of affection on St. Valentine's Day. Gradually, it became more and more of a tradition. And now, all over the world people think about love and friendship on February the 14th. Although, unfortunately, most of them forget to remember St Valentine and his faithfulness. Instead, it's become a Hallmark holiday that doesn't really mean very much at all. 


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