Little is known of the martyred saint whose feast is celebrated on February 14, but perhaps the most widely accepted version maintains that Valentine, a priest, served in Rome during the third century under Emperor Claudius II.
When Claudius decided that single men made better soldiers than men with wives and families whom they were reluctant to leave, he outlawed marriage for young men. Realizing the injustice of the decree, Valentine defied Claudius by continuing to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's romantic gestures were discovered, Claudius threw him in jail and ordered Valentine be put to death.
During his time in jail, Valentine fell in love with a young girl (his jailer's daughter so the story goes) who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, Valentine wrote her a letter and signed it, "From your Valentine."
Written Valentine greetings didn't appear until after 1400, but the holiday has been celebrated as far back as the Middle Ages, when young women and men drew names from a bowl to see whom their valentines would be. They wore these names on their sleeves for one week, giving us the expression 'to wear your heart on your sleeve'.
Valentine's Day has now become so commercialized that some ignore the day, saying they don't need big corporations to tell them when to shower their sweethearts with love and gifts. After all, we should show our love every day. But do we?
Maybe it's time for you to do something really special for your love, and a romantic dinner at home is a great place to start. As Juiia Child once said, "I think careful cooking is love, don't you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who's close to you is about as nice a Valentine as you can give." Bon appetit!