As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this week, here’s a little holiday history for you! This post is an excerpt from the Holiday History: Valentine’s Day lesson for kids written by Samarah Vermeer.
The origins of Valentine’s Day are surprising; A priest who believed in love, defied the emperor’s laws and was eventually killed for his faith. But what does history tell us about this holiday of love, and what does the Bible tell us about love? (Historical information is taken from americanminute.com.)
HISTORY – WHAT IS VALENTINE’S DAY?
Valentine’s celebrations go back to the 3rd century and a man named Valentine. History tells us that Valentine was either a priest or bishop in Italy. The Roman Emperor at that time was named Claudius II. Claudius II was in charge. He decreed that single men made better soldiers than men with wives and families so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine thought this was an injustice! He defied Claudius’ order and continued to perform marriages in secret. If a young soldier wanted to get married, Valentine would perform the wedding.
When Emperor Claudius demanded that Christians deny their consciences and worship pagan idols, Valentine refused. He was arrested, dragged before the Prefect of Rome, and sentenced to death. While awaiting execution, his jailer, Asterius, asked Saint Valentine to pray for his blind daughter. Valentine prayed and the young girl miraculously regained her sight! The jailer became a Christian and was baptized, along with many others. Right before his execution, Saint Valentine wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it, “from your Valentine.”
Valentine was eventually killed for his faith on February 14, 269 AD. Over 200 years later, Pope Gelasius decided February 14th would be known as “Saint Valentine’s Day” in memory of Valentine.
BIBLICAL – WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Valentine’s story is a remarkable one of someone who gave his life for what he believed. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than the one who gives their life for their friends.” Do you think Valentine walked in love?
Can you think of another man who gave his life for his friends? Jesus! Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. He took our sins and gave us His righteousness all because of God’s great love for us! Jesus said these words in John 13:35, “If you love one another, everyone will know you are my disciples.” We should love one another just like Jesus told us to. So how do we do that?
Loving one another requires empathy. Empathy isn’t a word you hear all the time. Here’s what it means: Understanding, being aware of and sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another person. Have you ever heard the expression, “Put yourself in their shoes?” That would be practicing empathy. Saint Valentine was sensitive to others and he helped them.
So Valentine’s Day isn’t just about hearts and chocolate and candy. It’s really about showing God’s love to others!
Want to teach your kids about the history of Valentine’s Day? This resource will help!
Find even more Valentine’s Day resources here.