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Green Hearts

Green heart

Some time way back in the mid-70s, when I was in elementary school, I read about the Christian martyr Valentius. According to the account I read, he was imprisoned. Desiring to write letters to his friends, but lacking any paper, he instead used the leaves that were growing outside the window of his prison cell. It was from this act that the tradition of sending little notes on St. Valentine’s Day emerged. In fact, the leaves were heart-shaped, so that’s where we got the symbol, which truthfully doesn’t look much like a real human heart.

I was so knocked out by this story that (with a little help from my mother) I made valentines for my classmates that year out of green construction paper, rather than the traditional red. I recall that in my homeroom we’d all made and decorated large envelopes that we hung on the wall to receive valentines. I believe everyone in the class brought in valentines for everyone else, so we all got 25 or 30 and probably quite a bit of candy as well. It all seems quite ridiculous in retrospect.

I did a quick little bit of research this morning, but I can’t find any evidence to support the Valentius leaf story. I suppose it’s just a little too perfect to actually have any basis in fact.

Photo: Green heart / juise / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Note: Apparently I wrote about this some years ago.

Published inHoly Daze


  1. Mom AKA Ruth Everson Mom AKA Ruth Everson

    Obviously your memory is better than mine! I don’t recall making green heart Valentine’s or the story about the leaves. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Christy and Persephone.

  2. Mom Mom

    I just read the following on another blog which sort of complements the story of St. Valentine writing notes — probably not on leaves:

    Having little, to nothing, to do with the sentimentalism of this day on the secular calendar, the real St. Valentine was quite a man, well worth remembering and commemorating on this day. A physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of the Emperor Claudius, Valentine become one of the noted martyrs of the third century. The commemoration of his death, which occurred in the year 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the early church of the West. Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, he left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer written on an irregularly-shaped piece of paper. This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine’s Day in many nations.

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