The word “Valentine” has two meanings. It can imply a card sent or given to a sweetheart on Saint Valentine’s Day. It can also indicate any particular person, especially a sweetheart, chosen to receive a greeting on Saint Valentine’s Day.
Both implications of the word come from a time long long ago. At a turbulent period of Roman History, when a crumbling Roman empire was facing hostilities from all sides, the country needed valiant soldiers who would be ruthless and able to lay down their lives for the cause of the motherland. Emperor Claudius II felt that marriage was becoming a serious impediment in building a strong national defense as married soldiers felt disinclined to stay away from home for a long time. He issued an edict forbidding marriage to assure quality soldiers. But a kindly priest Valentine came to the rescue of young Romans and secretly married them off. But this good time was not long to last for Claudius II soon got wind of Valentine’s actions and had him arrested. Though initially impressed by Valentine’s personality and courage, the emperor tried to force his order on him and is even said to have attempted to convert him.
When Valentine refused to obey both royal orders, the incensed emperor ordered his execution.
While awaiting his sentence in prison, Valentine is believed to have restored the sight of the jailor’s daughter with his reported mystical powers. This earned him the friendship of the jailor Asterius as well as his daughter. A little time before his death, Valentine is said to have asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and wrote a farewell message to Asterius’ daughter signing it as “From Your Valentine,” a phrase that lived ever after.
The Roman Empire was soon to fall, and its end brought everything back to normalcy. The people never forgot Valentine and they created a holiday in memory of their loving priest. Along with “Valentine’s Day”, the tradition of sending personal messages also gained popularity among love birds and such handwritten notes of love came to be known as “Valentine”, a name drawn from the signature of Valentine’s last letter to Asterius’ daughter.
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