Valentine's Day is fast approaching. For many, it's time to consider what type of meaningful gift to present to their loved one. Every February, couples offer great presents as tokens of their affections. Candy, flowers and jewelry are some of the most popular items exchanged all in the name of love and St. Valentine's Day. But who is St. Valentine and what about his life inspired a national holiday?
Many fanciful legends surround the life and times of St. Valentine so it's often difficult to know the real truth, but both Christian and ancient Roman traditions make up vestiges of the story. According to legend, the holiday has roots in an ancient Roman festival which was a fertility celebration observed on February. 15. The Lupercalis festival was considered a pagan holiday and so was refashioned when Christianity came into dominance in Europe. Pope Gelasius declared the festival a Christian feast day in 496, moved it to February 14, and renamed it after the Roman martyr Saint Valentine.
The trouble is it's hard to know which Valentine the Pope was referring because there are at least three early Christian saints with that name. Priest Valentine of Rome was a martyr around AD 269. His relics are at the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome and Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland. Valentine of Terni was a bishop who met killed during the persecution of Emperor Aurelian. His relics are held at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni. Both men are buried on the Via Flaminia, an ancient Roman road. Another saint named Valentine was martyred in Africa, but little else is known about him. Ironically, all three saints are said to have met their end on February 14.
Some scholars contend St. Valentine was a priest who married young Roman soldiers in secret. During the rule of Claudius II, soldiers were forbidden to marry. The Emperor believed married soldiers were emotionally attached to their family, and that attachment would make them weak. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree and seeing the heartbreak it was causing for many young lovers, began marrying couples in secret services. Word got back to Claudius regarding this "friend of lovers." Valentine was arrested and sentenced to death. While his actions benefited the eros love (passionate love) of young couples, his refusal to denounce his religion emphasized his agape (Christian love) and devotion to his faith. Valentine was executed on February 14.
However, it was not until the 14th century, that St. Valentine's Day was linked to romantic love. In honor of the engagement between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia, Chaucer composed a poem, linking the occasion to the February 14 feast day. Traditionally it was held that birds mated on February 14, further enhancing the romantic connotations with the day.
Through the centuries, Valentine's Day continued to be observed in connection with courtship and romance. By the 18th century, couples were exchanging meaningful gifts and handmade cards. One of the oldest Valentine's Day cards in existence was created by Charles, duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415 AD while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. It is preserved at the British Museum.
Whatever the truth lies behind the holiday, Valentine's Day has grown in popular culture to represent a day to celebrate a significant other. While children still make homemade valentines and roses are a traditional favorite, jewelry has come to represent a meaningful gift for someone who wants a gift that lasts.
In keeping with the tradition of the day, consider jewelry that symbolizes your love. For instance, charm bracelets have long been worn by women who appreciate their beauty and the sentiment it offers. Today's beaded bracelets can be designed by the wearer (or the giver) to represent the many special occasions in a woman's life.
These European-designed charm bracelets allows the wearer to add or change the look of the bracelet as she desires - adding new charms and beads designed from 14K gold, sterling silver or Murano glass. Through the years, you can continue to add to her collection of beads and charms, which symbolize your many memories as a couple. Make it a truly happy Valentine's Day by presenting her with a meaningful gift she will wear for years to come - commemorating the devotion for which St. Valentine himself stood.
Lewis Jewelers is proud to carry the full line of Pandora Jewelry. Pandora charms, Pandora bracelets and Pandora beads are only a part of the collection. For more information, Lewis Jewelers, 2000 West Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48103, 877-88-LEWIS or visit the website.