The following is from an article I wrote this week for my local paper. Since the word length is 600 and blogs should never be more than 300 (a fact most bloggers sadly ignore), I have split it into two installments.
This week, Americans will spend roughly 14 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day. The average person will fork out about $103. We will send out 190 million valentines by snail mail or electronically. Florists typically bring in one-third of their annual revenue this week, selling approximately 110 million roses.
Some might say opening their wallets makes them suffer. But the roots of Valentine’s Day can be traced back to someone who suffered to the point of death – and all for love.
According to the “Golden Legend,” a medieval bestseller compiled around the year 1260, the historical person St. Valentine was persecuted as a Christian. Roman Emperor Claudius II threatened him with death if he didn’t renounce his faith. Not only did Valentine refuse, he even tried to win Claudius over to Jesus Christ. Claudius had Valentine beaten and imprisoned, sentenced to death. While awaiting his execution, Valentine healed his jailer’s blind daughter and converted her entire family to Christ. He was decapitated on February 14, A.D. 270.
How was Valentine able to endure torture and death? He undoubtedly looked to Christ’s example and counted the eternal life Jesus offers worth more than his temporal life on earth. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (I John 3:16).
Over the centuries, the tale has become embellished. One story line, probably propagated by the greeting card industry, says that Valentine wrote to a young lady (either his beloved or the jailer’s daughter) the evening before his execution. He signed it, “From your Valentine.” Hence, the custom began.
It’s a stretch to go from Valentine’s story of sacrifice and courage, taking place nearly two millennia ago, to giving chocolates and heart-shaped cards today. But there is a modern-day account being written which is closer to the reality Valentine endured.
Stay tuned to read Part 2 and find out about the modern-day story.