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Love is in the Air: The History of Valentine's Day

The spirit of Valentine's Day has struck. As you walk down the street, or read the paper, you notice hearts and the feelings of love are everywhere. This holiday seems to be celebrating couples throughout the nation, but not many people know how Valentine's began. During the third century, Emperor Claudius ruled Rome. Like most rulers, Claudius wanted to gain the respect of his people and other leaders. In order to do this, the Emperor called for volunteers to build an undestructable army. The problem was no men wanted to fight and they refused to volunteer. Upset because his plans did not go through, Claudius implemented a law banning marriage. He figured men would be more likely to serve in his grand army if they were not distracted by women. The law had the reverse effect. Many Romans enjoyed relationships and wanted to be married. Breaking the law, some Romans chose to be married in secret ceremonies. But few people were willing to conduct illegal marriages. Priest Valentine strongly believed in love and the right to marry. He was one of the few Roman priests who conducted wedding ceremonies. His services were very romantic performed by candlelight with couples whispering their sacred vows. Authorities caught Valentine performing one of these ceremonies. They arrested him and took him to prison. After Emperor Claudius heard what Valentine was doing, he sentenced the priest to be executed. While Valentine was in prison, many Romans brought him flowers, letters and gifts. They slipped these through his prison window as a way to show support and thanks for what Valentine had done. In fact, Valentine's jailer even allowed his daughter to visit Valentine in his cell. Over time, Valentine and the jailer's daughter developed a close relationship and became good friends. With more visits, the friends developed a deep bond. On his scheduled execution date, the priest left a letter for his dear friend thanking her for her visits and the friendship that they shared. He signed the letter "With Love From Your Valentine." Hence the popular saying used on Valentine cards sent today. Valentine died on Feb. 14, 269 A.D. We celebrate Valentine's Day today to honor the life that Valentine lived and to remember the importance of love and marriage in our society.