Mandan News

Valentines Day: A look back.

By Dustin White
Mandan News, editor

Each year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on celebrating the holiday known for love. While many know that it is somehow related to the St. Valentine, there are many issues that people are not aware, such as there were more than one St. Valentine. To celebrate the holiday, here is a look back.

Who was St. Valentine?
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, as well as one female saint carrying the name: St. Valentina.

There are a few legends in regards to the St. Valentine recognized on Feb. 14. One holds that St. Valentine was a priest during the third century. When the Emperor Claudius forbid the marriage of young men, as he believed those that were single made better soldiers, Valentine saw the decree as unjust and continued performing those marriages. When Claudius discovered the work of Valentine, Claudius had him executed.

Another legend held that St. Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape prison in Rome. Eventually, Valentine was placed in prison himself, and from there, fell in love with a jailor’s daughter. From his confinement, Valentine is said to have written love letters to this woman, and signed them “from your Valentine.”

While there are a variety of legends, they are bond together with the idea of heroic and romantic characters.

When was Valetine’s day first celebrated?
It is difficult putting a beginning on Valentine’s Day. Some trace it back to a Roman pagan festival, while others point to Pope Gelasius, who in the late 400s declared Feb. 14 a day to honor St. Valentine.

It may not have been until around 1375, that the day became associated with love, as it is today. Geoffrey Chaucer, the famed English poet, may have been the inventor of the holiday, as we know it.

Chaucer is known to have taken liberties with history, creating historical contexts and passing them off as real. It was in his work, “Parliament of Foules,” where he linked a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine, a connection that did not exist before. By writing, “For this was sent on Saint Valentine’s day/ when every foul comes there to choose his mate,” he may have invented a holiday.

Penicillin
It was on this day in 1929 that Sir Alexander Fleming, a young bacteriologist, would discover penicillin. The discovery was an accident, but for over 80 years, has helped loved ones battle bacterial infections.

So while we celebrate the holiday that may have been invented by a poet, that honored a St. Valentine that could be a number of different individuals, we can also rejoice in the anniversary of an accident that has saved many loved ones over the last century.