When’s the first time you got a box of stale Sweetheart Conversation hearts at school? Do you remember the first time someone in your class left a Valentine’s Day card taped to your locker door?
From kindergarten, children have sent their crushes valentines. But the origins of St. Valentine’s Day are somewhat of a mystery. The History Channel says some interesting legends about the mysterious “Valentine” have spread over time, all involving martyred Catholic saints.
The Catholic Church claims three saints named Valentine or Valentinus. The first was a Roman priest from the third century who disobeyed an order from Emperor Claudius II, forbidding young men to marry. Claudius believed that single men made better soldiers than married men with families, but Valentine felt the law was unjust and went on marrying young couples. Claudius had him executed for his disobedience.
Another legend says that Valentine may have been murdered after helping Christians escape Roman prisons, the History Channel Web site (www.historychannel.com) says.
One final legend says that Valentine was imprisoned. While in jail, he had a visit from an unknown girl, possibly the daughter of his jailor. He fell in love with her and sent her a letter before his death, signed “From Your Valentine,” the same popular expression used today.
In 498, Pope Gelasius declared that Feb. 14 would be St. Valentine’s Day. The reasoning for celebrating St. Valentine in the middle of February is unclear. The Church could have started the tradition to honor the death of St. Valentine. However, the History Channel says some believe that it was started in the middle of the month to coincide with the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god Faunus, the god of agriculture, and to Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. The Church could have purposely coincided the holidays in an effort to “Christianize” the festival, the site said.
Over many years, the celebration jumped from a memorial to St. Valentine to a holiday where we exchange little heart-shaped candies and flowers.
According to the Web site of the company NECCO (www.necco.com) which makes the Conversation heart candy, Daniel and Oliver Chase developed the candies.
Daniel came up with the idea for printing sayings on candies. Oliver founded NECCO in 1847.
The original hearts had a little more room than the teeny ones Americans are now used to. They used to carry messages such as “Please send a lock of your hair by return mail” and they were cut in all kinds of shapes, NECCO says. NECCO began adding new sayings each year, starting in the 1990s.
As for the rose, it was used for many things before it became a staple on Feb. 14. FlowerShopOnline (www.flowershoponline.us) says the rose was used for decoration and even for facials in Roman culture. It was during the age of chivalry that the rose began to symbolize love, the site said.
Brittany Griffin, Kentucky Kernel, University of Kentucky