The tradition of St. Valentine

Who was St. Valentine? And why do we send cards on his day?

Yme Woensdregt


Roses are red,

Violets are blue;

Will you love me?

Coz I sure love you.


I still remember getting that Valentine card when I was so very young and still in school. Alas, this card came from a girl I had never noticed before. Sadly, it wasn’t from the girl I hoped would give me one. Ah … such is unrequited love.

Where does the custom of sending cards and gifts come from? Who was St. Valentine? And why do we send cards on his day?

We’re not really sure who the good saint is. The best guess is that Valentinus was a priest in 3rd century Rome. The emperor Claudius II (‘the Cruel’) decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. As a consequence, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied the emperor, and continued to perform marriages in secret. The emperor discovered his actions, and had him put to death on February 14, sometime around the year 270.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself, to a young girl (possibly the jailor’s daughter) who would visit him in prison. Before his death, he wrote her a letter, which he signed, “From your Valentine”.

Another legend is that at the same time as Valentine lived, the Romans celebrated a festival called Lupercalia. One of the customs of this festival was that the names of young women would be written on slips of paper, and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a slip, and the girl whose name was chosen would be his sweetheart for the duration of the festival. Valentine’s name was gradually associated with such actions.

While the reality of St. Valentine is lost in the mists of history, he became one of the most popular saints in medieval Europe. He became naturally associated with the customs of “courtly love” which were practiced by the nobility and knights in the middle ages. Courtly love was a practice of expressing love nobly and chivalrously, in which the knight serves his courtly lady.

Some think that the customs associated with Valentine’s Day originated in medieval England and France. It was supposed that birds began to pair in the middle of the second month of the year. In Chaucer’s “Parliament of Foules” we read, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” So the day became associated with lovers, and a proper time to send love letters and love tokens.

The practice grew, and became especially popular about 400 years later, so that by the mid–eighteenth century, it was very common for friends and lovers to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.

Today, the Greeting Card Association estimates that a billion Valentine cards are sent each year — making this day the second largest card–sending holiday of the year.

I don’t have any advice as to how to treat your sweetheart today. But I remind you that in its deepest sense, love is much more than an emotion or a feeling. Hollywood loves to emphasize this aspect, because it usually makes for a great movie.

The deeper sense, however, is that love is a series of actions, in which we seek the best for the beloved, in which we treat one another with gentleness and compassion. In a contemporary translation of Paul’s famous hymn to love, “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.”

In that sense, truly, “love never dies.”

Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Cranbrook Arts has opened the doors of their  new gallery space to the public with their inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best.
‘Kootenay’s Best’ opens Cranbrook Arts’ new gallery

This exhibit has been in the works for the past several months and features the work of more than 50 emerging and established artists from across the Kootenays

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read