How Did Saint Valentine's Day Develop?
Saint Valentine's Day is widely celebrated in the Western world as a day of love and romantic relationships. While this tradition does go far back and has connections to early Christian traditions, there are also more complex links with pre-Christian holidays that were likely changed or modified into Saint Valentine's Day traditions.
The story of Saint Valentine does have a direct link to one or several early saints called Valentine. Many traditions have developed around this holiday, and most likely there were multiple traditions that were integrated as original records were lost. One of those traditions state that Valentines was a priest in Rome martyred for defying Claudius II, who had decreed his soldiers would not marry. He may have tried to marry soldiers in secret and when the emperor found out he had him executed. Another story states Valentine tried to help Christians escape and he was imprisoned after he was caught. He eventually may have fallen in love with his jailor's daughter and he sent the first "valentine" to her. He may have greeted her by saying "Your Valentine" and this is where using valentine as part of the Valentine Day greeting may have originated. Another idea is that Valentine of Terni was Christian bishop who was martyred in 273 during persecutions. There is a legend that he marryed a young pagan soldier with a young Christian woman. On hearing his wife was dying, he converted to Christianity so that he could be bounded with her forever and then he subsequently died.
We do know that Saint Valentine's Day was a feast day that likely celebrated a Christian saint and had developed when Pope Gelasius in the late 5th century CE declared the February 14th as the feast day. However, the motives for this and stories associated with Saint Valentine suggest there may have been some other motives for this. What we do know is that many early Christian traditions and feast days were often created to be similar to pagan festivals, as it helped early converts in transitioning to the new religion. Saint Valentine's day may have not been different.