Why Valentine’s Day?

by Frances Housden

The 14th of February is all about romance and love—a time of year that people can buy a card covered in hearts and flowers for the person they love without hiding it from public view.

In some places love is always in the air. There is a bridge in Paris, the Pont de l’Archevech, covered in love-locks. Couples can engrave a padlock with their initials and fasten it onto the bridge before turning the key in the lock together then tossing the key to the padlock and their love into the Seine, sealing their love forever. Another bridge in Rome is covered in these love-locks—this one was inspired by a book called I Want You. In Serbia there is another renowned bridge dedicated to love, and there are a few more in places like Dublin and Canada, all devoted to the pursuit of love—the happy ever after romance writers put on paper for their readers. Yet they haven’t named a day after these river crossings (which I feel are more convenient than symbolic).

lock

Bridge Day. Hmmm, it doesn’t have the same ring.

Throughout the world men have declared their love by buying heart-shaped islands and building wonderful buildings such as the Taj Mahal in India, and the Petit Trianon at Versailles, which Louis XV built for Madame le Pompadour to show their love.  Yet there has never been a day named after these grandiose tokens of the heart’s passion.

Palace Day…no, I don’t think so.

taj

That brings us back to St Valentine’s Day. Or should I say the saint previously known as St, Valentine. Some churches still recognise his day as a festival and to be honest over the centuries many areas have laid claim to the real saint, so I’m only going to tell you about my favourite.

So what exactly did Valentine do to earn beatification in the first place?

It was actually due to the efforts of a priest named Valentine that the day of February 14th got its name. The story goes that during the reign of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in several bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius found it tough to get soldiers, and felt the reason men did not join army was because they did not wish to leave their wives and families. As a result Claudius cancelled all marriages and betrothals to put a stop to this. A Roman priest, and romantic at heart, Valentine decided to defy Claudius’s order and along with Saint Marius, Valentine secretly married couples. When his defiance was discovered, Valentine was brutally beaten and put to death on February 14, about 270 AD. After his death Valentine was named a saint.

I like this version because it’s at the heart of the romances we write. A hero and heroine willing to dare anything, to resist taking the easy way out, ready to challenge anyone who might remove their right to a loving future together. And the story of a priest willing to risk death to make sure they achieve their goal—that ‘happy ever after’ we all dream of achieving.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and don’t forget to tell someone ‘I love you’.

hearts

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