Whether you’ve circled the date in a big red heart on the Katy Perry wall calendar you bought last week or you’ve crossed it out in black pen as a symbol of your mistrust of the day and everything it advocates, we all know what’s happening this month.

The 14th of February is kind of an annual thing — regardless of your relationship status — and there’s just no escaping it. It’s a day for couples of the world to unite in their love for each other and rejoice to an otherwise unmoved Facebook news feed that they may have actually found “the one.” Not just any one, but the one. For the rest of us, tant pis. Better luck next year.

You all know what I’m talking about:  St. Valentine’s Day.

But who is St. Valentine exactly, and how come his name just happens to be all over the card I’ve written to my very significant other? Well, ladies and gents, lovers and loners, look no further because I am about to explain everything. I will debunk the myths and leave you with some good ol’ juicy facts to fill up the empty space on your Valentine’s Day cards.


Valentine was a lover, not a fighter

According to legend, Valentine was a Roman priest at a time when this emperor called Claudius (The Cruel) ruled the western world (a.k.a. the Roman Empire). The problem with Claudius was that he didn’t like the Church, nor did he like boys and girls falling in love and marrying young. Why? Because apparently bachelors make better soldiers. They have less to live for than the married ones with kids.

However you look at it, Claudius was a problem as far as our friend Valentine was concerned. As the Church values marriage — more specifically, monogamous marriage — Valentine decided that he would undertake the dangerous task of marrying these young lovers in secret. Unfortunately, he was caught and eventually executed for his work, becoming a martyr in the name of love.


So did Valentine really exist?

Someone who dedicated their life and risked execution just to marry the young lovers of the world? Even though it seems fantastical, this guy was real. So real, in fact, that if you so desired, you would be able to go and visit what is believed to be his final resting place. In the grand tradition of Catholic martyrs, however, you would have to choose between many contenders, all of whom insist that they house the lovely bones of a certain Mr. Valentine. The most popular pilgrimage for the loved-up tourists of today would probably be a visit to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, where “a small vessel tinged with [Valentine’s] blood” lives on for the public gaze.


The power of love

Nobody is  absolutely certain of what happened to Valentine while he was locked up in the months before his execution, but many believe that he cured a young girl’s sight through prayer. One of Valentine’s jailers named Asterius had a daughter who was blind. Valentine prayed with the girl each day and her sight recovered, so much so that Asterius converted his entire family to Christianity and his tale lives on to this day. (Whether the story that Asterius’ daughter was then blinded once more by love being true, we cannot be certain.)


A card from…Valentine?

This one has always been a source of confusion for me. How was it that I got a card from “Valentine” every year when most of my male classmates were called Thomas or Daniel? Did this Valentine hide in the corners of my English classroom, too scared to declare his undying love for me in person?

The answer is this: Unless you’re living it up in France (which is, quite possibly, the true land of amor), then your “Valentine” will more often be known by his real name for the other 364 days of the year.

Why do we change our name on Valentine’s Day in order to protect our identities as we admire from afar? Unsurprisingly, the real Valentine is to blame for this.  It’s believed that his last ever letter was sent to Asterius’ daughter and signed “From Your Valentine,” which means that:

a) he wasn’t very good at playing it cool
b) he was pretty smooth when it came to woo-ing the girls
c) he probably never intended for you to borrow his name every year to keep a classroom crush a secret


Why the 14th of February?

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s  cold, it sometimes snows, and even the singletons would manage to enjoy a Valentine’s Day in the sun.  So why February? Again, as is usually the case when fact and fiction become entwined in the history books, there are lots of legends to answer this. The most likely answer is that Valentine’s death may have become confused with the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival that really celebrated love at first sight name. At the Feast of Lupercalia, the names of “lucky” young women were picked out of a box by strapping young men, and the rest was history.

No need for Tinder, first dates, or even phone numbers — apparently all we need is some paper, a pen, and a cardboard box.


Unlike some of the ladies and gents of our time, Valentine was not a player

The only thing this guy played was Claudius’ system, and all for a good cause. His untimely death wasn’t a pretty one either, and if he died in the name of love, then he probably deserves all the credit we give him.


From Your Valentine,




"St. Valentine, The Real Story"
"St. Valentine Beheaded" 

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