Although Valentine’s Day is not a legally acknowledged holiday in any country, it’s a feast day in various Christian denominations. There are multiple martyrdom stories associated with several men named Valentine—there are a few facts and more than a few legends.
The two Valentines who are acknowledged on February 14 are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. Valentine of Rome was a priest who was martyred in 269—you can view his flower-decorated skull in the Basilica of Santa Maria. How romantic.
Valentine of Terni was a bishop in Central Italy, and he was supposedly martyred in 273 under the persecution of Emperor Aurelian. A relic which is purported to be Terni’s head is preserved and venerated in the abbey of New Minster, Winchester. But enough about the historical Valentines and their preserved body parts.
Legally acknowledged or not, Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world. The practice of sending cards, flowers, chocolates, and other gifts originated in the United Kingdom, because we know that the Brits are stereotypically known for their expansive expressions of emotion (insert ROTFL emoji here). Worldwide, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in much the same way, although the calendar date is not always February 14.
In addition to hearts and flowers (and preserved skulls), a few countries add their own ways of celebrating. In El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia, the tradition of el secreto amigo (secret friend) is carried out much like we participate in Secret Santa at Christmas. In Sidon, Lebanon, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with the whole family. It is about family love rather than a couple’s love.
In Japan, there are too many rules regarding the giving of chocolates for my brain to make much sense of it—suffice it to say that the better the quality of the chocolate, the more the recipient is esteemed. In other words, if your special someone gives you a box of Godiva chocolate, it’s safe to say that you have a date to the Valentine’s dance. If you receive a can of Nestlé Quik (now called NesQuik), you’re probably a wallflower.
In South Korea, women give chocolate candy to men on February 14 and men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14. On April 14, those who did not receive anything on either day go to a restaurant to eat black noodles and mourn their single life. (That sounds like I made it up, doesn’t it? I didn’t).
In many non-Christian countries in the Eastern hemisphere, Valentine’s Day is frowned upon as a symbol of the spread of decadent Western culture. In Malaysia and Pakistan, there have been attempts to ban Valentine’s Day celebrations. In Saudi Arabia, bans against the holiday have created a black market for red roses and wrapping paper. In Afghanistan, where Valentine’s Day is strongly discouraged, those who are bold may express their love through poetry. They defy their lack of freedoms by saying, “I kiss you amid the Taliban.” (I didn’t make that up, either.)
Let’s face it. No matter what those in authority do, whether it’s government authority, school authority, or parental authority, love cannot be defeated. Just ask the Montagues and Capulets.
Some of the earliest romantic expressions of love can be found in the Bible in Song of Solomon. In fact, a few of the verses are so racy that some Jewish boys are forbidden from reading them until they are adults. What woman wouldn’t be moved by these choice verses?
Your hair is like a flock of goats….Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn sheep….Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle that grazes among the lilies. (4:1, 2, 5)
Those of us who are Christians
believe know that God is love, and we are commanded in both the Old and New Testaments to love the Lord with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds. God’s love is unconditional and everlasting. That’s a whole lot of love!
Psalm 103:8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Romans 5:8 …God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Whether or not you have a special someone in your life this year on Valentine’s Day, remember that you are loved by a God who knew you before you were created, and in His ultimate expression of love for YOU, He gave up His son. It doesn’t get any better than that. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Factual information presented in this article was shamelessly borrowed from Wikipedia.
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