The legends of the beginnings of Valentine's Day are varied and confused -- some say there were actually three different men called Valentine back in the day, the days of ancient Rome, that is.
One of those stories about Valentine of which fact and legend are impossibly intertwined is this:
It was a crime for young couples in love to marry in Rome, back in the 260s AD.
The ban was set in place by the Emperor Claudius II, the original critic of one man, one woman, equals marriage. That marriage concept, devotion, fidelity, was one of those new-fangled Christian ideas Romans wanted nothing to do with. Claudius preferred his young soldiers to be untangled by a marriage relationship, although sexual matches, gay and straight, were not denied or minded, even orgies were preferable in the mind of the emperor compared to this siphoning off of perfectly good Roman soldiers one by one, to commitments elsewhere other than the Empire.
Home fires burning, kids bouncing on Daddy's knee.
Dangerous stuff, this.
A good soldier ought to be a fighter with some lovin' on the side, not a committed husband, so, the ban on marriage edict was pronounced.
Desire can be unstoppable however, as we all know, so these young lovers who wanted to marry back in ancient Rome were forced to do so in secret. One guy offered help: an early Christian named Valentine, or more likely in Rome, Valentinius. He secretly carried out marriage ceremonies for many years for those desperate to be husband and wife, but possibly the giggling of connubial bliss grew too loud to be ignored, for eventually,Valentine was outed and arrested by the Emperor's forces.
In 269 AD, Valentine, or Valentinius, was sentenced to a three-part execution: beating, stoning, and finally decapitation. Some say he actually did die on February 14th, the day we remember as a day to celebrate love.
Can you imagine this strange time in the ancient world, a world where a marriage of one man, one woman, was the stone-able offense? How the world turns...
Can we start a new celebration today?
Maybe today we can begin to celebrate all forms of love, however it occurs. Maybe this holiday made for love, begun in such a strange form, can become a true celebration of the freedom of love, a true celebration of the freedom to marry, whoever we wish.
Now that would be a Valentine's Day to celebrate.