Bill Handel

Bill Handel

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Handel History: The REAL History of Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day 14 February Date in Lightbox with Heart Shaped Gift Box

Photo: Getty Images

Valentine's Day is here and everywhere you go you'll see images of cupids, hearts, chocolate and declarations of love.

But other than the color red, NONE of that really has any connections to Valentine's Day.

And why the color red? Simple...BLOOD.

The true history of Valentine's Day is not a lovely, sweet one, and as your resident history buff, Handel wanted to lay it on the line about what Valentine's Day is REALLY about.

Now, to be fair, there are at least THREE different St. Valentines, all of them martyrs, and all apparently related to the date Feb 14th. There's Valentinus, a Roman priest we will tell you more about below, there was another who was a bishop of what is now Terni, Italy, and the third was another religious man in the Roman province of Africa.

Let's focus on Valentinus.

According to historians, in 270 A.D., Roman priest Valentinus (now you see where the name comes from) found himself in BIG trouble because he had been marrying couples in secret all over the place, openly defying Emperor Claudius II, who had banned the sacrament of marriage because he believed marriage was the reason he was having a hard time getting soldiers to join his military.

When the Emperor heard what Valentinus was doing, he ordered that Valentinus be put to death. No trial, nothing, that's just the way they did things back then.

Once the Emperor made this declaration, Valentinus was arrested and brought before the Prefect of Rome to face his fate. After a few days in jail, on or around February 14th, Valentinus was beaten to death with clubs and his head was cut off.

For his service and sacrifice, after his death he was named a Saint. According to, he's the patron saint of: couples, beekeepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers and young people. Quite the collection!

National Geographic says St. Valentine's remains are scattered across cathedrals in Europe. A Dublin church claims to exhibit his heart; his skull is supposedly in basilica in Rome, his skeleton sits in a box in a Glasgow friary, there's a shoulder bone in a basilica in Prague and in a Madrid church, some of his "remains" are encased in glass.

So how exactly did this bloody history get connected with love and romance?

According to legend, as Valentinus sat in jail for the period of time before his execution, he left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter who had become his friend. He signed it 'From Your Valentine.'

Feb 14th was the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love. During these festivals, the names of young women were placed in a box and their names were drawn by men, supposedly to spark a love connection.

In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to the Feast of Lupercalia and declared Feb. 14th St. Valentine's Day, as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom for love.

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