Valentine’s Day is upon us and the shops are full of everything bright pink and red from lovely pink bubbly, heart shaped chocolates wrapped in pink foil, long stem roses and beautiful bouquets of wonderfully colourful and imaginative floral assortments. Even magazines and newspapers include all manner of creative Valentine’s projects and list things to do and places to go, in a quest to encourage us all to be more romantic.
All this provides some light relief during what is, traditionally, one of the worst months of the Winter but, how did it all start?
I have been doing some research on that subject and here is what I have discovered.
The origins of Valentine’s day can be found in a Roman Pagan festival (Lupercalia – if anyone is interested). This apparently ran over three days – 13th 14th and 15th February and was a ‘fertility festival’.
No marks for guessing how they celebrated that but I can tell you it involved whips and the spanking of young ladies’ bottoms. I will leave it there!
Then there was a Christian by the name of Valentine who was reputedly martyred, on or around February 14th and another Christian – Valentine of Rome who was a religious figure under Emperor Claudius. He was arrested for giving aid to prisoners. He is also said to have healed the sight of the daughter of the jailer and to have fallen in love with her.
He apparently sent her a note signed ‘from your Valentine’.
Then, around 496 AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th to be St Valentine’s Day, a Christian feast day combining Christianity and Paganism (Lupercalia), another example of Christians hijacking Pagan Festival dates. Even Geoffrey Chaucer, in the 14th century made reference to St Valentine’s day upon the engagement of Richard 2nd to Anne of Bohemia. A high court of love was opened in Paris around 1400 AD dealing with all matters relating to affairs of the heart, love and marriage and the first recorded Valentine love note was sent by The Duke of Orleans whilst he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after his capture at Agincourt. Even Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ gives St Valentine a mention.
During the 18th Century, the passing of Valentine love notes became popular and in the 19th century, cards started to be produced. Hallmark produced their first Valentine card in 1913. Since then, Valentine’s day and all that goes with it – the declarations of undying love and romance; the romantic candlelit dinners; the cards the chocolates the bubbly and flowers; the jewellery the engagements and the weddings have all combined to make the Valentines day we have all come to know and, dare I say it, LOVE!
Happy Valentine’s Day.