Holiday has origins in murder

Originally published in the Fullerton Student Journal, Vol. 1, Issue 2; 14 Feb 2000

A day for lovers it wasn’t.

Valentine’s Day can trace its origins to the reign of Emperor Claudius II of Rome, who reigned from circa 265 to 270 A.D. Claudius, believing that single men made better soldiers, forbade his troops to marry. In defiance of this edict, a Roman priest named Valentine secretly married couples.

Claudius demanded Valentine renounce his faith. When he refused, the emperor had him beaten with clubs and beheaded. The execution of Valentine is believed to have occurred on Feb. 14, 270.

In 496, Pope Gelasius I declared that day to be the feast day of St. Valentine, although it was not originally a day for lovers or trading romantic notions. Since the 14th century, however, due perhaps to a similarity to the Norman word gallantine – which means gallant or lover – or perhaps to the circumstances surrounding the martyr’s execution, countries throughout Europe made the day a holiday celebration of love and romance. Unfortunately, the specifics surrounding the modern incarnation of the holiday are shrouded in the mists of history.

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