Perchance a kiss to steal

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

Around 200 AD (CE), the Roman Emperor Claudius was busy conquering various parts of Europe and Asia, making a general nuisance of himself in a most barbaric way. Claudius had determined that married soldiers were of little or no good on the battlefield, so he banned the institution of marriage throughout Rome.

A Catholic bishop named Valentine, however, secretly continued to marry young couples who came to him. When Claudius found out about Valentine, he first tried to convert him to paganism. But the always-perceptive Valentine reversed the strategy, trying instead to convert Claudius to Catholicism (Christianity). For his effort, Valentine was first stoned, then beheaded.

During the days that Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer, so the story goes. It is said that through his great love for her and his great faith she was miraculously healed from her blindness immediately before his death. Before he was taken to his execution, Valentine signed a farewell message to her – “From your Valentine.”

As time passed, it became a tradition for men to give their admired ones handwritten messages of affection containing Valentine’s name. The first official Valentine card was sent in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. At the time, Orleans was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and his card bore his heartfelt sentiments for his wife. Cupid, another symbol of the holiday who often appears on Valentine’s cards today, became associated with it because he was the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty.

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