Updated: Mar 18
And so, the most romantic day of the year is almost upon us: Valentine's Day. More than 16,000 couples celebrate their wedding anniversaries on this day in the UK alone - and lots also get engaged on this auspicious date. So obviously, Valentine's day is more than just chocolates, red roses and slushy cards.
But wait! When did we start calling it Valentine's Day and drop the saint? I mean, the apostrophe in Valentine's tells us the day belongs to somebody, so why St Valentine, and why the 14th February?
The chronicles (well, Wikipedia and a few other sources) tell us that Valentine lived in Rome
in the third century AD, and was a Christian priest. This was the time of Emperor Claudius II Gothicus - remember? The guy who persecuted Christians by making them into lion food, so not a great time to be a priest.
Valentine looked out for persecuted Christians and married many of them in secret. (No, he didn't marry them, he married them to each other, goodness sake!).
Anyway, when this was discovered, it didn't go down too well and he was imprisoned. One of the blokes who judged him was called Asterius, who had a blind daughter. Valentine prayed for her and her sight improved, which made Asterius become a Christian immediately. (Bear with me, this is all relevant).
Nevertheless, Valentine was condemned to a three-part execution by stoning, beating and then decapitation, which occurred on 14th February 269AD. Before his sentence was carried out, however, he wrote a last letter to Asterius and signed it, 'from your Valentine,' which is the inspiration behind the signing of many cards. And of course, because he helped people to get married, he is the focus behind all the love.
So while you are planning your romantic (Saint) Valentine's Day, spare a thought for the guy who made it all possible.