Chocolate and teddy bears, cards and romantic dinners, boxes of tiny postcards at school…Valentine’s Day is just wonderful, right? However, its modern-day origins stem from the history of a Christian martyr, made a saint by the Catholic Church (its ancient origins reach back to Roman fertility ceremonies). Here are five reads, both for adults and children, that examine the history of this holiday and the saint who gave it its name.
1. Saint Valentine by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Kestutis Kasparavicius
Tompert takes the few concrete facts we know about Saint Valentine, together with the many legends which surround his life, and creates a cohesive examination of the benevolent man who is said to have sent messages of love to Christians in prison during the Roman persecution. Accompanied with watercolor illustrations by Kestutis Kasparavicius, his history is both beautiful and interesting.
A board book for very young readers with only 200 words, Skarmeas shares the legend of Saint Valentine’s healing of a blind child through a miraculous prayer and the love he had for the children of Rome.
3. Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda
Sabuda also relates the legend of Valentine’s healing of the blind child, but does so in much greater detail, revealing the identity of the child (daughter of a Roman jailer) and showing how even his love wasn’t able to save him from imprisonment and martyrdom.
4. The Story of Valentine’s Day by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Susan Estelle Kwas
This children’s book goes all the way back to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival that marked the beginning of spring. Bulla then discusses Saint Valentine and how the holiday has evolved over the centuries.
5. The Story of Saint Valentine by Laura Wagner
In this children’s book, Wagner relates an entirely different legend surrounding Saint Valentine: that he defied the Roman government’s prohibition on allowing soldiers to marry. His commitment to love created this celebration we still enjoy today.
While most stories about Saint Valentine are steeped in legend, his life and death are undisputed, and his place as figurehead of this widely-celebrated holiday is unquestioned. Take some time to learn more about him and to share his story with your children as you shower them with love and gifts on this day!
YouTube Channel: Fiveminded
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