Remember when Valentine’s Day was Saint Valentine’s Day?
According to legend and some archeological evidence, Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred in 269 for marrying Christian couples. While awaiting his execution, he penned a farewell note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it, “From your Valentine.”
He is the Patron Saint of greetings, young people, love, engaged couples, and happy marriages. He is also the Patron Saint of fainting, epilepsy, plague, bee keepers and travelers.
Funny how Hallmark® has focused on just the love and greetings business. I guess there’s not much of a market for fainting or plague cards anymore. Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time that I celebrated bee keeping either. So Saint Valentine the man has been forgotten or has been replaced by Cupid I suppose. But when I was a kid we still called it Saint Valentine’s Day and I guess I’m feeling a little nostalgic (or old) today.
I love history and I think it’s important for people (my kids and grandkids anyway) to know how things came to be. Growing up I told my children that EVERYTHING has a history (I can see their eyes rolling now). But it is important and I usually start with our family.
Like many Americans our family originated in Europe. On my mom’s side the journey from France included a time in Canada until those madcap fur traders decided to make the journey down the mighty Mississippi to settle here in the midwest. My French Canadian ancestors can be traced back to some of the earliest residents of our hometown. On dad’s side our German ancestors came to America about a hundred years later. Dad likes to say the Germans came over to clean up the mess that the French had made (that joke never gets old – I suppose my eyes are rolling now).
Things are a little murkier on my wife’s side of the family. Some Scottish and English ancestry and maybe Dutch. More importantly her great-grandmother was Native American – Choctaw I think. As best as we can tell some of her people were likely forced to march the “Trail of Tears” and settle in Oklahoma (shame on you Andrew Jackson!)
Every family has a history. Every town has a history. Every nation. Why is it important? Why must we remember? I think because we owe to those that have come before us. I think we honor the “saints” in our own families when we simply remember them. We’re here because of them – because of their search for a better life; because of their need to be free of religious or political persecution; because of their adventurous spirits; or simply because they “came along for the ride” on the ship or wagon or canoe. Some of our ancestors came here because they felt they had no other choice escaping famine or debtors prisons. Some literally had no choice: shackled as the property of others. Some of their stories are heartbreaking. Some are heartwarming. Some are awe-inspiring. But they should all be told. Their stories are our stories.
Tell your stories (ignore the eye rolling) and honor your history and your people.