Well, we’ve made it to February. The month that is undeniably associated with pinks and purples, heart-shaped arrows, and elementary students nervously touting their decorated shoe boxes in hopes of finding their true Valentine. There’s no denying it: We love love. An estimated one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, and Americans purchase approximately 198 million roses for the holiday. But why?
Don’t get us wrong. We love a nice heart-shaped piece of chocolate (especially the ones that include pep talks on the inside of the foil). But why February 14th? Why in the name of Saint Valentine? Is he even a real saint?
Now that we’ve posed a few imperative questions, it’s time to give you an incredibly unsatisying answer: Nobody really knows. But let’s see what our historians have to say.
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. The most notable legend contends that the true Valentine was a priest who served in Rome during the first century. The legend claims that the emperor at the time deemed single men to be better soldiers than those with wives and children, so he outlawed marriage entirely. The Valentine of this story felt men were being handed a great injustice, so he defied the emperor and performed marriages in secret. For his actions, Valentine was put to death.
There are other stories, though, of an imprisoned Valentine who is credited with sending the very first “valentine.” This legend claims that Valentine was madly in love with a young girl who visited him throughout his confinement. Before his death, he allegedly sent a letter to the girl signed, “From, your Valentine.” (Sound familiar?)
Regardless of the dozens of murky legends out there, it’s clear that Valentine’s Day has one of the most popular saints, remembered for his sympathy, heroism, and most importantly, his love of romance.
As for the date, the most popular theory is that the Christian church decided to place St. Valentine’s feast in an effort to “Christianize” the celebration of Lupercalia–a fertility festival dedicated to the pagan god of agriculture that took place every February 15th. At the end of the 5th century, Lupercalia was declared entirely “un-Christian” by Pope Gelasius, who officially deemed February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. By the 15th century, the day became definitively associated with love.
The Bible mentions love over three hundred times, and throughout its entirety, it is unquestionable how we are to define love:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” -1 John 4:7-11
Love is defined by the moment God chose to sacrifice His Son so that we–unworthy sinners–would have life in His death. And there is absolutely nothing we can bring to the table but our sin and hearts that are willing to receive that love.
Paul is abundantly clear in what this love of God looks like:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” -1 Corinthians 13:4-7
God’s love is perfect, but sometimes expressing your affections can be hard, especially on Valentine’s Day. Kingdom tribe is here to help.
We’ve concocted some Valentines that you probably shouldn’t sincerely use, but we encourage you to do so anyway. Enjoy.
Hannah Heinzler is a graduate of Drury University and Staff Writer for Kingdom Tribe Press.
Megan Richardson is a graduate of Belmont University and Staff Writer for Kingdom Tribe Press.