Updated: Feb 15, 2020
Why is red the color of choice for the commercial and cultural celebration of St. Valentine’s Day?
Some suggest that, since red enhances physical reactions, retailers use it to stimulate people to make impulsive buying decisions. Others associate red with feelings of passion, desire and love.
Two University of Rochester psychologists found that red heightens a man’s attraction toward a woman; and that, likewise, women were more attracted to men wearing red.
Red is known to raise blood pressure, as well as heart and respiration rates—which sounds about like the way love can make us feel, right?
However, beyond the commercial and psychological rationale, there’s a historical reason to associate red with this day named after a third century Christian priest and physician who lived in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II.
Convinced that unmarried soldiers fought better than married ones. being less afraid of what might happen to wives and families if they died, Claudius issued an edict prohibiting young men to marry.
According to legend, Valentine defied the imperial edict, considering it unjust, and continued to secretly perform Christian marriages for young lovers.
When his actions were eventually discovered, Valentine was arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to be beaten, stoned, and decapitated for his faith and stand for Christian marriage. He was put to death on February 14, AD 270.
Legend also has it that one who was to stand in judgment against him was a man called Asterius who had a blind daughter. While in prison, Valentine befriended, prayed with and healed the young girl of her blindness. Asterius was so affected that he became Christian as a result. As the story goes, Valentine's last written words were in a note to the young girl that he signed “from your Valentine;” which is said to be the inspiration for today's romantic missives similarly signed.
When Father Frank O'Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland (one of three churches claiming to house remains of Valentine), reflects on what Valentine’s story means to him, he says, "there comes a time where you have to lay your life on the line for what you believe."
"If Valentine were here today,” Father O’Gara continues, “he would say to married couples that there comes a time when you're going to have to suffer. It's not going to be easy to maintain your commitment and your vows in marriage. Don't be surprised if the 'gushing' love that you have for someone changes to something less "gushing" but maybe much more mature.”
The question then becomes: is the young couple ready for that kind of love? In the midst of all the warm, wonderful feelings of a wedding day, will they remember that the light of love also casts the shadow of a cross.
The red of Valentine’s Day reminds us of one who proved his love to the one who first loved him. St. Valentine lost his life because he would not deny the one that he loved — Jesus the Christ! Even more, the red reminds us of Christ’s own blood willingly spilled to demonstrate God’s passionate love for us.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends ~ Jesus, in John 15:13
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. ~ John 3:16,17