The Real Story Behind Valentine’s Day

meaning of valentines day

This Valentine’s Day you will probably either send or receive a valentine from someone. More than a billion are expected to be given away in the United States alone. But just like many of our holidays, there’s a lot more behind it than just cards and gifts. There’s a true-life story. It’s a story that teaches us a lot about love, sacrifice, and commitment—the true meaning of Valentine’s Day.

In the third century, the Roman Empire was ruled by Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. He was nicknamed Claudius the Cruel because of his harsh leadership and his tendency for getting into wars and abusing his people. In fact, he was getting into so many wars during the third century that he was having a difficult time recruiting enough soldiers.

Claudius believed that recruitment for the army was down because Roman men did not want to leave their loves or families behind, so he canceled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Thousands of couples saw their hopes of matrimony dashed by the single act of a tyrant. And no one seemed interested in standing up to the emperor.

But a simple Christian priest named Valentine did come forward and stood up for love. He began to secretly marry soldiers before they went off to war, despite the emperor’s orders. In 269 A.D., Emperor Claudius found out about the secret ceremonies. He had Valentine thrown into prison and deemed that he would be put to death.

As Valentine was awaiting execution, he fell in love with a blind girl who happened to be the jailer’s daughter. On the eve of his execution, with no writing instruments available, Valentine is said to have written her a sonnet in ink that he squeezed from violets. Legend has it that his words made the blind woman see again. It was a brief romance because the next day Valentine was clubbed to death by Roman executioners.

St. Valentine gave his life so that young couples could be bonded together in holy matrimony. They may have killed the man, but not his spirit. Even centuries after his death, the story of Valentine’s self-sacrificing commitment to love was legendary in Rome. Eventually, he was granted sainthood and the Catholic Church decided to create a feast in his honor. They picked February 14 as the day of celebration because of the ancient belief that birds (particularly lovebirds, but also owls and doves) began to mate on that very day.

It’s surprising to know that Valentine’s Day is really founded on the concept of love in marriage. On this Valentine’s Day, what are you doing to keep the love in your marriage burning? While giving a gift and card, having a candlelight dinner, and sharing special words of love are all important, the true spirit of Valentine’s Day needs to last throughout the year.

Here are some ways to bring more love into your marriage:

  • Schedule priority time together. Pull out your calendars and set a date night every week or two—just to spend time together and talk. (Note: Movies don’t count.)
  • Laugh together. When was the last time you shared a funny story and chuckled with each other? Loosen up and laugh freely. Live lightheartedly!
  • Play together. Find a hobby or activity you both enjoy: fishing, bowling, tennis, hiking, or biking.
  • Be romantic together. Send your spouse a note of encouragement in the mail every once in a while just to say, “I love you.” Spend one or two weekends away each year just with your wife. (No buddies allowed.)

While Valentine’s Day is a good time to put a spark back into your relationship, the only way to fan the flame of a good relationship is for every day to be a Hallmark moment.

What are you doing to fan the flame of love in your marriage? Please share your comments with me.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Sheik Salim

    Even though I was moved by St. Valentine’s wonderful story of ‘love & sacrifice’, I still think the observance of Valentine’s Day on Feb.14th is a commercial ploy by businesses to generate sales of gifts, flowers, cards, movies, chocolates, candies, ice-cream, jewelry, etc; etc. Why can’t we express our true feelings to our spouses, lovers, fiances, etc. all thru’ the year? Why wait for Feb.14th to demonstrate our intimate feelings? The same can be said of ‘Mother’s Day’, ‘Father’s Day’, and even the observance of Xmas (Jesus’s birthday – assumed but not fully verified). Any man-made occasions like Valentine’s Day, etc. with no moral or divine significance is an innovation geared mainly to keep businesses and people happy with no supporting evidence that it elevates love among the partners/couples, etc.
    PS: On a final note how come a roman Catholic named St.Valentine was allowed to marry in the 3rd century but Catholics priests are prevented from getting married in the 21st century? Is this man’s law or divine law? I need our friends of the Catholic church to respond. We cannot stop God’s laws from prevailing. This is a great injustice to human natural tendencies and the moral obligations of marriage betweem man and woman!

  • Mac75man

    Whatever sheik shalom! Don’t partake then!

  • Sheik Salim

    That’s why me or any of my families do not partake. Why contribute our valuable $s to the wealthy merchants & corporations???

  • Holiendjm

    you don’t have to spend $$$$$.. make one yourself and show them in a verse of your love…some people can’t express their love in words, but a card can say it all!

  • I found out today on the radio that St Valentine is the patron saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting,
    greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers, and young
    people.  The plague?  Wow!  That’s awkward.

  • Evie

    Thanks Mark for sharing that beautiful story on Valentine’s Day!  And some of you guys could use an ‘attitude’ adjustment!  Just sayin’.  :o) 

  • cc

    Thank You Mark for the story of St Valentine.  A Reliquary containing the remains of St Valentine is venerated in the the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Whitefriar St Dublin Ireland where there are special Masses and ceremonies  for young couples on St Valentines Day.

  • Mrspk63

    He didn’t marry, he fell in love with the blind girl.  You need to read more carfully.

  • NoblestOne

    Maybe because your dollars employ people and support those employee’s families? Or maybe because those wealthy merchants gives millions to churches and charities around the world? Maybe because money is going to burn in the end anyway and really has no value after this life?

  • Lbinion

    Isn’t it biblical to “Honor thy Mother and Father?”…

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  • Hjpankey

    I love this day!  And please spell Christmas right……………………..

  • Ahoffman

    For some additional information on St. Valentine (with sources):  No mention of him being in love with the jailor’s daughter, so don’t know how much credit to give that part of the story – but he was a martyr for his faith, marrying Christians against the rule of the Emperor. 

  • papa scott

    It’s also believed that the girl was cured from blindness upon receiving the Valentine.  

  • papa scott

    Sheik Salim:  Here’s your Catholic answer In the Eastern rites of the Church it is common for married men to be ordained to the priesthood. Further, in the Latin rite there are a few married men, converted ministers from other faiths, who are ordained to the Catholic priesthood. This, however, is not common. Finally, in neither the Latin rite nor the Eastern rites do priests (or deacons) marry after they have been ordained, except in extraordinary circumstances.
    The reasons Latin rite priests can’t marry is both theological and canonical.Theologically, it may be pointed out that priests serve in the place of Christ and therefore, their ministry specially configures them to Christ. As is clear from Scripture, Christ was not married (except in a mystical sense, to the Church). By remaining celibate and devoting themselves to the service of the Church, priests more closely model, configure themselves to, and consecrate themselves to Christ.As Christ himself makes clear, none of us will be married in heaven (Mt 22:23–30). By remaining unmarried in this life, priests are more closely configured to the final, eschatological state that will be all of ours.Paul makes it very clear that remaining single allows one’s attention to be undivided in serving the Lord (1 Cor 7:32–35). He recommends celibacy to all (1 Cor 7:7) but especially to ministers, who as soldiers of Christ he urges to abstain from “civilian affairs” (2 Tm 2:3–4).Canonically, priests cannot marry for a number of reasons. First, priests who belong to religious orders take vows of celibacy. Second, while diocesan priests do not take vows, they do make a promise of celibacy.Third, the Church has established impediments that block the validity of marriages attempted by those who have been ordained. Canon 1087 states: “Persons who are in holy orders invalidly attempt marriage.”This impediment remains as long as the priest has not been dispensed from it, even if he were to attempt a civil marriage, even if he left the Church and joined a non-Catholic sect, and even if he apostatized from the Christian faith altogether. He cannot be validly married after ordination unless he receives a dispensation from the Holy See (CIC 1078 §2, 1).

  • Thomassh0921

    Just love one another as you can and with what you can do.

  • Db2tenn

    Mark, I appreciate your words today. God has been moving in my heart and I need to find ways to be more loving to my spouse.  I’m grateful for the ideas – and the ideals – behind this day, and see it as a place to set a spiritual marker and make a fresh start.  Thank you!

  • Kimkim2cute

    Today is a bad day for me , i just got dumped from the guy . Valentine will become a bad memory in future ,,,,( 

  • ged

    re: man-made occasion with no moral or divine significance,… huh? 
    St. Valentine, martyr in the year of our Lord two hundred and eighty, was a very holy Catholic Priest of great authority.He was not married or in love with any girl. The emperor Claudius(the cruel) desired Valentine to renounce Jesus Christ. Valentine spoke eloquently about Jesus Christ to Claudius who then thought him wise and reasonable but the provost of the city told Claudius he was being deceived so Claudius lost his courage to convert to the One, True God and had Valentine taken away to prison by the provost. While in prison, Valentine prayed aloud to God to show the people of the house the Light. It marveled the provost that Valentine would refer to God as Light and so he said that if God healed his blind and deaf daughter and allowed her to see again that he would be converted. So Valentine prayed to God for the provost’s daughter to see again and she was healed by God. The provost and his house were all converted to Christianity but the emperor still did smite off the head of St.Valentine.This is a day for Catholics to remember St.Valentine and to offer prayers of thanksgiving for his sacrifice. We also consider him a patron of engaged couples,among others. We pray to him as a favor so to speak, asking him to intercede for us to God for our needs,Eph6:18-19 or Rev5:8. Jesus, The Second Person of The Holy Trinity, became flesh and dwelt on earth to show us how to live..He was not married,Mt19:12 and St.Paul, the apostle, teaches us in the Bible that  he was celibate 1Cor7:8 and that celibacy is recommended for full-time ministers 1Cor7:32-35, see also in Jeremiah Jer16:1-4.It is very difficult to take care of a congregation let alone to take care of a wife&children and to tend the congregation. Celibacy is a grace from God that the Catholic Priest freely professes, they choose it. To say that celibacy is a great injustice to human tendencies is not true. Celibacy is a God-given grace. Humans are not animals and have the ability to control themselves. The celibate Priesthood is not an injustice to the moral obligations of marriage either. Not everyone is called to the married life just as not all men are called to the vocation of the Catholic Priesthood. However, for Catholics if you are not married, God commands us to remain celibate because fornication is a sin, Mt15:19-20 and Gal5:19-21.
    hope this answers some of your questions and re:Jeus’ birthday..see next post.

  • ged

    It is true that the Bible does not say that Jesus was born on Dec.25 and the Catholic Church does not proclaim that Jesus was actually born on Dec.25, only that we celebrate it on this day. It is a celebration of the Incarnation not a memorial of a specific day. Since the Feast of The Annunciation is older than Christmas and is celebrated on March 25. so Dec.25 was chosen because if you count forward from March 25 nine months you will come up with Dec.25.
    Also, Dec.25 date was an opportunity for the Catholic Church to confront paganism and so it aimed at one of the biggest cults in Rome celebrated by everyone called the pagan feast of “dies natalis solis Invicti” meaning “the birthday of the Unconquerable Sun”. So while the origins of the date for Christmas may have started on a pagan feast day, Christianity sought to reform this pagan date and make it holy! Linking Jesus’ birthday with sunlight reaffirms that all that is created is good so we celebrate the birth of Jesus, The Light of the world-sent by God’s gracious Will. Christians have a right to use whatever will reinforce God’s universal love and desire to share divine life with each person.

  • Edward

    Here is the correct story of St. Valentine:

    The Holy Martyr Saint Valentine (February 14, 270)
    The servant of God Valentine was born into a highly educated family,
    and as a youth he received an excellent education. Then, the Emperor
    Claudius II commanded that everyone worship the idols of Rome. He also
    made it illegal for anyone to be a Christian, or even to be friends with
    a Christian. Valentine was a devout Christian and he refused to offer
    sacrifices to the pagan idols. Together with many other Christians, he
    was arrested and imprisoned. Saint Valentine was in prison for a long
    time, and he became friendly with one of the officers of the guard. The
    officer’s daughter, Julia, had been born blind, and though she was very
    bright, with a fine, quick mind, she had difficulty learning. The
    officer was impressed with Saint Valentine’s excellent education, and
    also by the clarity of his speech. He arranged to have Julia take
    lessons with the young prisoner. Saint Valentine taught her history,
    mathematics, and the sciences. He also taught her about our Savior,
    Jesus Christ. Julia began to see the world through Valentine’s eyes. She
    trusted his wisdom and found comfort in his quiet strength. Valentine
    taught Julia to pray. One day, the maiden asked him, “Valentine, does
    God really hear our prayers?” “Yes, my dear one. God hears each and
    every one of them.” “Do you know what I pray for every day?” she
    continued. “I pray that I might see. I want so very much to see
    everything you have told me about.” “God does what is best for us if we
    will only believe in Him,” Valentine said. “I do believe in Him,” Julia
    cried. “Let us pray together very hard that God will give me my sight.”
    The two of them prayed together for a long time. Suddenly, there was a
    bright flash of light that filled the cell. Julia opened her eyes and
    looked up. “I can see, Valentine, I can see!” “Glory to God,” Valentine
    exclaimed. They began to pray and thank God. As the Christians in the
    prison began being taken for trial, it became difficult and then
    impossible, for Valentine and Julia to see each other. They began to
    write to one another for they had fallen in love. They shared their love
    through their letters. Saint Valentine was brought before the imperial
    judge. He boldly confessed Christ and was sentenced to death. On the eve
    of his martyrdom, he wrote a long letter to Julia, encouraging her to
    stay close to Christ and remain strong in the faith. He signed the
    letter, “From your Valentine.” Saint Valentine was martyred for being a
    Christian on February 14, A.D. 270. He was buried in an area where many
    Christian martyrs were laid to rest. Julia planted a pink flowering
    almond tree on his grave. Saint Valentine became a symbol of deep,
    abiding friendship and love, perhaps because of the beautiful letters he
    wrote to Julia which he always signed, “From you Valentine.” It is sad
    that people often forget to celebrate his memory as a holy martyr who
    have his life in witness for our Savior, Jesus Christ. Of course, the
    greatest gift of love he gave Julia was a knowledge of the Gospel and of
    Jesus Christ. Through his holy prayers, may we also remember that there
    is no greater gift we can offer to those whom we love than the Gospel
    of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:47, 14 February 2012

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  • DLW

    Wikipedia is not “truth”, sorry the last place you should look for truth is wikipedia!!!!!!

  • Tallaman

    pankey, I used to object to the use of Xmas in place of Christmas until I found out the the letter X, or “chi” in Latin, is the first letter in the name Christ and, in the early church was often used as a symbol for Christ. It is also a cross. X is as much a representation of Christ as the full spelling. 

  • Elton1113

    Celibacy for Roman Catholic priests was not mandated under canon law for
    the universal church until the Second Lateran Council in 1139. So Valentine would have been “allowed” to marry.Every scriptural reference about marriage vs. being single declares that it should be up to the person whether they should be married, not mandated by the tradition of man. Celibacy certainly would require much grace from God; but why are so many priests falling today? in the past? They’re only human; the true application of 1 Cor 7:9.

    I see why you would remember a man, perhaps even try to emulate him. But why pray to a man who is asleep(1Thes 5:10)? He would have surely pointed you to Christ (Rev 22:9). When you become a child of God, you have direct access to His throne (Heb 4:16). I hope none of my kids EVER go to one of my friends to ask ME for something. I want them to come directly to me in their need.

  • Sayantani Dutta

    We are going out for our Honeymoon to puri this valentine day.

  • J k

    Grt u told us a grt story

  • Shae

    I really love this story because i was born on Valentines Day

  • Sheik Salim

    I am still awaiting responses from my Catholic friends on why their priests are forbidden by the Church from getting married. We cannot deny the freedom Almighty God provides for the human race to marry and procreate. Priests will continue their obsessive desires after young boys & innocent Nuns discreetly to satisfy their innate sexual desires. Only marriage can solve this problem as practised by every religion on the face of the earth. Catholics are way behind the times.

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  • Faheem Sibtain

    I believe that we can celebrate Valentines day when ever we want even daily, because our spouse is our valentine, why to bring flowers and chocolate and candle light dinner once a year.

  • Tricia

    My husband and i have been married for forty years. Both our fathers have passed. We decided to celebrate this Valentines Day by taking our mother’s to dinner and reminding them how much we love them. Romance and love comes in different forms in different ways throughout our lives…. Love is a gift to us all, from God.

  • raja zulqarnain

    in Muslim society we don”t wait for valentines,mothers r fathers day we show him love, respect every moment its part of our religion and for sake of our soul comfort

  • Michelle Manswell

    No man can stand as a mediator between us and God because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory Romans 2:23. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,”
    ??1 Timothy? ?2:5?. Jesus is the propitiation for our sins 1 John 2:2. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews? ?2:17? ?I agree with what sheik shalom stated re the traditions of man. The named traditions came have their roots in paganism. But we absolutely have choices. God does not force one to do anything. He lays the truth before us and we choose to follow the truth or the lie. We choose follow good or to follow after that which is evil or is rooted in evil. When one chooses the things not of God one is in grave danger…You don’t want to be left to a reprobate mind!

  • Pearl

    I think you are partly right, of course there is a commercial side to every holiday…that is a capitalist countries right to make money in any way that works…but in the end it says nothing about the basis of the holiday.