What is Valentine’s Day and how did it start?

Contributions: Catholic Bishops Commission for Catechetics
Translation: Suzanna Joseph
Photo: Fiveminded

Flowers, candy, red hearts and romance. That’s what Valentine’s day is all about, right? Well, maybe not.
The origin of Valentine’s Day for the expression of love really isn’t romantic at all—at least not in the traditional sense.




Valentine was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called Claudias who persecuted the church at that particular time.

Emperor Claudius, ordered Romans to worship Roman gods on 12 Roma. He also declared keeping any relations with Christians a crime, punishable by death.

Valentine was a faithful Christian even death couldn’t scare him from loving God. Claudius’ guards arrested and imprisoned him because of his faith. When Valentine’s jailer found out that he was an educated man he appointed Valentine to help his daughter Julia, with her lessons. Julia was a beautiful and intelligent girl who was blind by birth. She started gaining knowledge from Valentine. Who not only taught her history of Rome but also taught her about God’s wonderful kingdom. Imagining God’s kingdom made Julia happy.

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One day she asked Valentine if God hears our prayers. Valentine answered “Yes my dear child God hears everyone’s prayer”. “Do you know what I pray about day and night? I pray so I can see. I wish to see God’s beautiful kingdom as you describe it”. “If we believe in God he can do anything for us. Nothing is impossible for him” Valentine replied. “Yes, I believe” Julia said and then both of them fell silent.
While they prayed the prison illuminated. “Valentine! I can see. I can see!” Julia shouted. Valentine fell on his knees and praised God for the miracle. The day Valentine was to be martyred he wrote a note to encourage Julia to stay close to Jesus and he signed the note: “From your Valentine”.

Valentine was martyred on February 14, 270. The place where he was martyred is called “Valentine Gate” and a church was built on his burial site called ‘Church of Praxedes’. In memory of Valentine Julia planted an almond tree next to his grave.

Today an almond tree is a symbol of friendship. That note inspired people to begin writing their own loving messages to people on Valentine’s Feast Day, February 14th, which is celebrated on the same day on which Valentine was martyred.


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