The hallmark of Valentine’s Day

What Valentine's Day represents (like Thanksgiving or Christmas) is applicable every day of the year.

Do you know where the tradition of giving and receiving valentines comes from? It can be traced back to a Catholic priest who was martyred in the third century and later granted sainthood.

According to legend, St. Valentine secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young lovers when the emperor outlawed weddings. When the priest was imprisoned, he received letters and tokens of love from young people throughout the Roman empire. Hand-scribbled notes were slid under the door of his cell.

Curiously, the original “valentines” were not romantic love notes at all. They were expressions of friendship. They were a tangible way of letting a lonely pastor know he was being thought about. They were a way of offering encouragement.

I’ve received such “valentines” throughout my life. I keep them in a special place. One is from my father. In his beautiful penmanship, he scrawled on a piece of hotel stationery how much he loved me and how proud he was of my achievements.

Another is from an elderly woman in my first congregation. In her not-so-legible handwriting, she thanked me for my creative approach to worship. In a setting where some were criticizing me for my innovative approach, Elsa’s note provided much-needed encouragement.

I also keep a homemade card one of my daughters made for me. In addition to the stick figures representing her and me, there are tall nervous-looking letters that spell out how much she loves me.

The power of a timely word has been attested to for millennia. A famous Jewish proverb celebrates the power of communication.

The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, And a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger. (Proverbs 25:11 MSG).

There’s nothing like a card, letter or note you can hold in your hand (and refer to again) to personify friendship. Like a valentine greeting, they convey encouragement, commitment, gratitude and love. Sadly, in this age of texting, Facebook messaging and emailing, the handwritten note is an endangered species.

What has been the hallmark of personal communication forever is becoming a thing of the past. Don’t let it. Pick up a pen and write!

Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos can be reached at


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