February 14, Valentine’s Day, is the Day Christians remember St. Valentine, a Christian priest and martyr who died near Rome in the third century (270 A.D.), during the persecutions of the Emperor Claudius the Goth.
This emperor had outlawed marriages in the interests of “national security” because he believed that men were less eager to go to war if they had married a woman they loved, thereby making an actual lifetime commitment to her. Living together was just fine with Emperor Claudius — but not marriage.
Valentine was a Christian pastor who continued, very publicly, to officiate at weddings. So he was arrested.
While in prison, Valentine became friends with his jailer’s daughter, who became a Christian herself. On the eve of his execution, he thanked her for her care and kindness in a note which he signed “Your Valentine.” And so began our custom of exchanging notes on Valentine’s Day, the day of St. Valentine’s martyrdom. The major symbols of the day — hearts, the color red, angels, and flowers — together with the themes of tenderness, faithfulness, and marital love — all belong strongly and beautifully to the Christian tradition. The heart represents the love of Christ for all people, red is the color of martyrdom and the Passion of Christ. And worldly lovers have borrowed this symbolism from Christianity precisely because of its power as a theme: to love someone is to be willing to suffer and die for that person — as Jesus did for us, and as St. Valentine did for the young brides and grooms who wanted to marry.
What are some ways to honor St. Valentine? You could send hand-made valentines to relatives and friends. You could eat ice cream and cake for breakfast — to remind yourself of the crazy days of courtship. You could make a family “Valentine’s Day Bulletin Board” with the wedding photos you have of yourself, your friends, and as many of your relatives and ancestors as you have.
Make Silhouettes — Needed:
- a bright lamp with the shade removed provides a good light source (to project the head profile of each person in the family onto a blank wall)
- White and red poster board — hold white poster board against the wall and trace the silhouette with a broad-tipped marker; cut out silhouette
- Cut a heart shape from red poster board larger than the silhouette
- Mount the silhouette on the heart (Display in hallway or give to grandparents.)
Valentine Treasure Hunt— Have each person in your family make a valentine for every other person in the family (write notes of love to all members of your family — tell them why you love and appreciate them); Each person takes turns hiding the valentines he or she has made; the whole family has a treasure hunt. When all of the valentines have been found, have snacks.
Have Mom and Dad tell how they met; activities and places they enjoyed while dating; when they knew they were in love; how Dad (or Mom) proposed; humorous stories about their courtship; look at old pictures of Mom & Dad when they were young. As a nice touch, Dad can show the family how he kissed Mom the very first time.
Make a Family Tree Centerpiece: You will need a bare tree branch, spray painted if you wish; plaster of Paris (available at paint and hardware stores); pail or flowerpot with no hole in the bottom; decorative paper or tissue; ribbon, yarn, or thread; small strips of paper
- Find and spray-paint the branch you want to use.
- Mix the plaster in the pail (according to package directions). Note: do NOT pour excess plaster of Paris down the drain: it will harden.)
- As the plaster begins to harden, insert the stem of your “tree”.
- Allow the plaster to set at least two hours.
- Cover the tub with decorative paper or tissue.
- While the plaster is hardening, have each family member write a “love note” to all other members of the family. Roll up the notes and tie into the shape of small scrolls using yarn or thread.
- Hang your “scrolls” onto the tree with more thread or yarn.
On Valentine’s night, unwrap and read the scrolls at a special Valentine’s dinner.
Give a Gift of Love: Take a living plant with red flowers to a friend or relative who is shut-in or who lives alone.