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Valentine's Day gets Google Doodle but began with beheading

February 14, 2012 |  7:46 am

Valentine's Day 2012

Valentine's Day 2012, honored today with a Google Doodle, is an appropriate time to remember that Valentine's Day -- both beloved and reviled by Americans -- likely began with a beheading.

The ancient history of Valentine's Day is as murky and unconfirmed as the concept of love at first sight. But the existence of at least two martyrs by the name Valentine appears to have some historical credibility.

One Valentine, a Roman priest, helped Christians who were being persecuted by Claudius II, according to Catholic Online. But helping his fellow man didn't turn out too well for Valentine, who was "beaten with clubs" before having his head lopped off.

GALLERY: Evolution of the Google Doodle

The beheading, according to this source, occurred on Feb. 14 around the year 270.

Happy Valentine's Day?

The other Valentine, bishop of Terni, Italy, also was martyred, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, which goes on to speculate that, perhaps, these differing accounts are actually rooted in just one person. 

In any case, a couple of hundred years later, around 497 AD, Pope Gelasius I said, "Hurrah!" and marked Feb. 14 as a day of celebration in honor of Valentine's martyrdom. In 1969, Pope Paul VI said, "Nahhh!" and erased the day from the General Roman Calendar of saints.

It was Geoffrey Chaucer and his lovebirds that may have first brought together Valentine's Day and romance.

"The Parliament of Fowls," written in the late 1300s, told of birds assembling to choose their mates. The poem, as translated by University of Maine's eChaucer, includes these lines:

"And after him you shall choose in order, according to your nature, each as pleases you; and, as your chance is, you shall lose or win. But whichever of you love ensnares most, to him may God send her who sighs for him most sorely."

Happy Valentine's Day.

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-- Amy Hubbard

Photo: Cheri Myler, owner of Artistic Creations Flowers and Gifts in Centennial, Colo., prepares Valentine's Day bouquets Monday. Credit: Helen H. Richardson / Denver Post 

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