St. Valentine was an interesting human… well, some of them were. The word "Valentinus," which is where Valentine came from, means "worthy, strong, or powerful," which means it was a pretty common name during this time. Because of this, there are about a dozen recorded historical figures with the name St. Valentine.
And, Valentine's Day actually celebrates a few of them. The holiday that takes place on February 14th is set to honor St. Valentine of Rome, who died around 270 A.D. (History). He is officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as the St. Valentine we are celebrating today, but his identity has been questioned by various Popes and scholars.
The real Valentine we celebrate was probably a Roman priest. Some scholars believe he did, in fact, live during 270 A.D., but others believe this happened as late as the 1400s. The story is still the same: an emperor named Claudias decided that Christianity sucked, and did not want any Christian weddings performed in Rome.
He also prohibited the marriage of young people, fearing that married soldiers would not fight as bravely as unmarried soldiers, due to fear of what would happen to their families. Valentine decided to marry people in secret because he believed that getting married was a right everyone should have (Valentine started using #loveislove before it was cool).
Once he was found, he was tortured and imprisoned. While there are many legends that have been told about his time in prison, the most famous is one involving one of his judges. This judge had a daughter who was blind; Valentine prayed for the girl to be healed and it worked so well that the judge sentencing him decided to convert to Christianity!
He was sentenced to a three-part execution that involved beating, stoning, and beheading. It is said that the last words he wrote were at the end of a letter to the young girl he cured of blindness; he signed the note "from your Valentine." (CBN)
The man that is officially recognized as St. Valentine by the Roman Catholic Church is a jack of all trades. In the afterlife, Saints are required to continue to serve living souls. St. Valentine's official duties are to look over the lives of lovers, as one would expect; he also looks over beekeepers, epileptics, and those who are traveling. It is unclear why or how these jobs became his responsibility, but I would like to thank him for watching out for bees (and their keepers).
So, why does St. Valentine get a day? What happened to all the other cool Saints who did equally nice things and got equally beheaded? Why can't we just spread love and enjoy chocolate on every day of the year?
Well, historians believe that Geoffrey Chaucer might be to blame. Around 1375, Chaucer wrote a poem linking "courtly love," to a celebration of St. Valentine. Before this poem, there was no association between these two things. The text of the poem states that February 14th is "the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate"
"For this was sent on Seynt Valentine's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate"
So, a random white guy might be the reason we have decided to commercialize love. That doesn't mean we have to fall for this BS. Instead, we could celebrate Valentine's Day every day. Why spoil your lover one day a year when you could buy them teddy bears and chocolate hearts when you miss them or think they could use a boost? Or, you could work on making yourself your valentine, and participate in new ways to love yourself every day.
Don't forget to check your local Walmart for some sweet deals on February 15th!