St. Valentine's Day
by Hilde Garcia
Valentines Day has had a long-standing tradition that dates back to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration celebrated annually on February 15. Pope Gelasius I named this pagan festival as a feast day around 496 a. C. for Christians, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day.
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine, all of whom were martyred. One legend says that when Emperor Claudius II decided that single men were better for the army than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. The priest was believed to have defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages in secret. When Valentine was caught, he was sentenced to death.
Another story says that the imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself to the daughter of the jailer because he had fallen in love with her. Before he died, he wrote her a letter and signed it “From your Valentine,” an expression that we still use today.
Every legend emphasizes that he was sympathetic and heroic. By the Middle Ages, St. Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in most of Europe.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages. However, written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. He wrote it from the Tower of London and it is believed to be the oldest recorded valentine.
However, the his wife, the duchess, died before the poem could reach her. During the 25 years he was in prison, he wrote his wife 60 poems of love. They are considered to be the first examples of “valentines.”
Today, because of printing advances, most people don’t hand write cards, they simply buy them. I still hand write cards! Messages are long as well as short, but all share a common bond that sentiments and emotions for someone else should be shared.
My husband wrote me a poem when we first started dating and gave it to me on Valentine's Day. I can't help thinking how many hundreds of years and millions of poems have been shared, and how it doesn't end. Our need to express love is as alive as it was for Valentine himself when he expressed his affection for his beloved while awaiting his execution.
So in the spirit of love, and may it live on forever, here’s a list of some popular picture books, middle grade stories, and young adult novels that explore the spirit of Valentine’s Day and the theme of love.
Fee free to add to the list!