Just who was our Valentine hero?

Nothing gets singles dating like valentines day. It is the one day of the year when usually shy guys and girls abandon pretence and pride and just go for it. In offices up and down the country, in bars, pubs and clubs tonight on UK dating sites everywhere, there will be people who have been building up to declaring their undying love for someone for a while and can’t wait to blurt it out. There will be singles everywhere who just never saw it coming and will be bowled over by proposals that spring up from nowhere to shock and amaze them.

Yes, some may say it’s commercialism gone mad (note the facebook status of those who do – guarantee you it’s: <b>single</b>) whilst those in relationships use the day to fall in love all over again and love the opportunity to express to their significant other just how much they love them. In today’s hyper-connected world, we spend so much time texting and e-mailing, private messaging on dating sites, but how often do we talk and not feel at odds with ourselves if we say ‘I love you’ to the one we do?

In this day and age, with online dating having transformed the way people look at dating as a whole, there really is no excuse not to tell at least one person how you feel about them. As Jake and Elwood once sang, everybody needs somebody to love.

But who gave us this opportunity? Is St Valentine real or is it just a myth that someone could prove love so much that he was honoured so throughout time immemorial by so many lovers after him?  Or did Clintons have a really bad Christmas one year and decide they needed something between New Year and Easter?

Well the jury’s still out about who he actually was but there is one version that holds true, both in timeline and historical accuracy around the time that Valentine’s Day was conceived, albeit somewhat unwittingly, by the saint we honour today who was martyred for the cause.

The common belief dates the sending of the original Valentine’s card to around the time of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. The leader stumbled upon the idea that single men fought with more vigour than their married peers, who longed for their families when they were fighting for the Empire on foreign shores. He subsequently banned all marriages.

However, a Catholic priest by the name of Valentine upheld the church’s belief and continued marrying men (to other women, you understand, he wasn’t a gay bigamist). Claudius II summoned the priest and extended an offer of pardon, providing the priest stopped carrying out wedding ceremonies. Valentine refused and was imprisoned before being subjected to a beating, then a stoning before finally having his head chopped off. However, whilst he awaited his punishment, he wrote to the jailor’s daughter expressing his undying love, no matter what happened to him; the letter he signed ‘from your Valentine’.

However, it wasn’t until 1,100 years later, around 1400 A.D., that sending valentine’s cards was popularised, a tradition we still hold today and was reportedly worth £20M to the UK economy alone last year. If only he’d had some of those royalties and a good agent…

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