valentine leap yearValentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year for many and is popular for grand gestures, declarations of undying love, weddings, engagements and a time to reaffirm love and commitment for the betrothed.

2012 is a leap year, which makes February very exciting, as many women will take advantage of the tradition to propose to their loved ones.

Red roses from all corners of the globe will be flown in and chocolatiers will have spent the previous twelve months designing heart shaped chocolates in fancy boxes to go with the luxurious red blooms. Then of course, there is Champagne without which no Valentine celebration would be complete.

Restaurateurs plan lovers menus and hotels plan rose petal strewn romantic breaks for couples in love with Champagne and cameras on stand by in case a marriage proposal is forthcoming.

We should spare a thought for St Valentine on this day when love is in the air. It is not entirely clear why Valentine is the patron saint of lovers but there may be a connection to a Roman festival called Lupercalia, which took place in February. During this time, young men and girls chose one another as partners

His crime was to marry Christian couples in ancient Rome and was arrested and imprisoned. Claudius, the Emperor at the time took a shine to Valentine who made the fatal mistake of trying to convert the Emperor to Christianity, whereupon he was immediately sentenced to death. Saints and martyrs however do not have the luxury of “resting in peace” as death is no excuse! They are expected to perform supernatural feats and intercede with the odd miracle or two. Rumour has it on the eve of his execution Valentine restored the sight of his jailer’s daughter and wrote a farewell letter to her signed “From your Valentine”.

He was subsequently canonised by the Catholic Church and is the patron saint of engaged couples, greetings, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people, fainting, and beekeepers. Birds and roses always represent him pictorially. The subjects of Saint Valentine’s patronage throw up some interesting connections. Legend has it that February 14th is the day when birds find their mating partners and when birds and bees are mentioned in the same sentence, well, we all know what that means! The crocus that blooms in February is alternatively known as Saint Valentine’s flower.

Many churches around the world hold claim to being in possession of Saint Valentine’s body and if they do not have the whole body claim at least to have some relics. There are many churches where young lovers make a pilgrimage on Valentine’s Day. In Dublin the relics are carried solemnly to the altar in a special Mass for young people and lovers. In England relics of St Valentine may be found in Blessed John Duns Scotus’ Church in Glasgow and in the Birmingham Oratory there rests a gold casket bearing the legend “Body of St Valentine Martyr” in Latin. It is located in one of the side altars of the main church.

As you are enjoying your romantic celebration, raise a glass to Saint Valentine without whom this day would be just February the Fourteenth.