Every February, across the world, flowers, cards, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St Valentine. For me, St Valentine conjures up images of The Milk Tray Man, skiing down death-defying slopes to give the woman he loves a box of much fawned after box of chocolates. But what do we really know about him or why we celebrate this holiday?


The patron saint of romance has long been shrouded in mystery. One legend suggests that Valentine was a priest during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II wanted to boost his army of soldiers, he banned marriage for young men because he thought that single men made superior soldiers to those with wives and children. Valentine recognized the injustice of this and defied the emperor by continuing to perform marriage ceremonies in secret. But when Claudius discovered this, he ordered that Valentine be executed.

Another story suggest that Valentine was killed after attempting to help Christians escape from torturous conditions in Roman prisons. And it was rumoured that Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ himself while in prison. During captivity, Valentine fell in love with his jailor’s beautiful daughter, but the romance was doomed. Just before his execution he wrote her a letter, signing it ‘From your Valentine.’

Perhaps the mysterious truth behind the Valentine legend emphasized his appeal as a romantic and heroic figure, and by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England. By the eighteenth century, friends and lovers exchanged notes or small tokens of love. At the end of the century, printed cards had replaced handwritten notes, and nowadays approximately one billion cards are sent each year.

However Valentine’s Day came about, there are many traditional and unusual ways to celebrate it. But why wait for February 14th? Shouldn’t we appreciate our loved ones all year round and make every day Valentine’s Day?

Sibel XX