Saint Valentine was executed on February 14th, 270 A.D. He was a priest in Rome who covertly married couples against Emperor Claudius II’s dictate. Claudius had banned marriage because wedded men were unwilling soldiers and he needed to sustain his warrior-class.

The mythology tells us that while in prison Valentine befriended the gaoler’s blind daughter. She brought him meals and they talked at length about imperialism, machismo and state control in the Holy Roman Empire. The night before he was “beaten with sticks and had his head cut off”, Valentine reached through the bars of his cell and touched her eye lids. She could see. It was a miracle. Later that night, Valentine penned a note to his ladyfriend and signed it “From your Valentine”. This was a first.

What next? The civic authorities mopped up the blood and the church went on a propaganda campaign. At that time it was the custom in Rome, a very ancient custom, indeed, to celebrate in the month of February the Lupercalia, feasts in honour of a heathen god. On these occasions, amidst a variety of pagan ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavoured to do away with the pagan element in these feasts by replacing the names of maidens with those of saints. And as the Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine’s Day for the celebration of this new feast.

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