Every February, across the country, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine.
But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday?
The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
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.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
According to one legend, 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.
So, what is the most romantic thing you have done? And more importantly, what is your ideal romantic gesture?
These questions were put to a few Rim country residents and in the spirit of the hearts and flowers time of year, we are sharing their responses here.
Tomi Huddlestun, married to Brett
Her most romantic act -- "I sent my husband a little invitation I made up on the computer. It was for an evening together, without the kids."
Her ideal romantic gesture -- "I'd like a total surprise weekend getaway for just the two of us with dinner and a weekend alone."
Jim Hagen, married to Marlene
His most romantic act -- "I called my wife from work and I said, ‘Get ready, we're going to the beach tonight.' I bought a basket, a little bottle of wine, some bread and took her to the beach and enjoyed the waves."
His ideal romantic gesture -- "Just to say, ‘You're the greatest man in the world and nobody can do anything quite like you do."
Tracy Snyder, single, dating
Her most romantic act -- "I don't know. I guess it hasn't happened yet."
Her ideal romantic gesture -- "A surprise, secluded, tropical getaway, with all the arrangements made, including the babysitter."
Mike Macfarlane, single
Most romantic act -- "I learned kind of late in life, women love flowers. Valentine's Day is also a time when it is acceptable for guys to be mushy. If you get a card you get points for that. Write something really mushy in there like, ‘You are the wind beneath my wings.' Flowers -- you get big points. You better get it right, or you're a big buffoon."
Ideal romantic gesture -- "It's sort of a double standard. Women don't do a hell of a lot. They get a card. They may cook you dinner, something like that. Women do not reciprocate. They'll get you a card. Maybe a box of those stupid hearts that say, ‘Be mine.' They really don't do much. It just doesn't seem to go the other way. It's a one-way street."
Silvia Smith, married to Don
Her most romantic act -- "When Don was working out of town, we planned a long weekend together in Palm Springs and I made sure we had a hotel room with a Jacuzzi in it, neither of us had ever had that before."
Her ideal romantic gesture -- "What we did for Thanksgiving. We just loaded up and headed out, where ever we stopped, we stopped. We had no schedule for anything."
George Rigby, married to Florence
Most romantic act -- "Florence made all the arrangements for a surprise 70th birthday party and all our children, grandchildren, my brother and daughter came from the east coast."
Ideal romantic gesture -- "I purchased a diamond ring for Florence in St. Thomas on a cruise she set up for us. We both enjoyed a romantic gesture."
A couple of very romantic gestures we have heard about in passing -- and yes, Rim country guys did these things:
- A scavenger hunt -- This guy invited his girlfriend over and on his door he'd left a card for her with a message to go someplace else; at that destination was a dozen roses and further instructions; at the next site was a diamond necklace and still more instructions; at the final site were tickets to a week in San Diego.
- A couple missed their senior prom and years later, the husband took his wife to the prom so they could share that experience.