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Valentine’s is day for romance

Date Posted: 2003-02-15

Romance blooms fresh in February. Love flows eternal, spurred by St. Valentine’s Day, and no couple is immune. The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint remains shrouded in mystery. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition, an is wrapped in folklore.

So, who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Another legend portends that Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today.

Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated as an expression of affection-or love-between a couple. The tradition transcends countries and cultures, although the question of whether the man sends the Valentine, or whether the female companion generates the special feelings.

On Okinawa this Valentine’s Day, it is easy for couples to share their special moments. Both on Valentine’s Day Friday the 14th, and again on Saturday the 15th, the Seamen’s Club in Naha is featuring a special Valentine’s Sweetheart Dinner. Soft romantic music sets the atmosphere for the evening special, with couples dining by candlelight and toasting each other with French wines. The gourmet dinner, capped by scrumptious chocolates and roses for the lady, is available by reservation only, 5pm to 10pm each night. Make your reservations by calling Civ. 857-1753 or DSN 637-7485. Cost per couple is $49.95.

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