Valentine's Day; a day for romantics everywhere, where love tokens and missives are exchanged between lovers and hopeful secret admirers alike. We've celebrated Valentine's Day on February 14 for centuries, but do you know how Valentine's Day first came about?
Valentine's Day originated as a Christian feast day in the late fifth century to celebrate a martyred Valentine, though exactly which one and why has become lost with time. One theory attaches itself to Valentinus of Rome who, in the third century CE, was persecuted for ministering to Christians and performing secret wedding ceremonies for soldiers who were forbidden to marry.
Whilst imprisoned he fell in love with his jailer's daughter, Julia, after miraculously healing her blindness, and is said to have sent her a final love letter signed "Your Valentine" before his execution (though the last bit with the love letter is most likely a later romantic embellishment!).
The truth is, like many Christian feast days, St Valentine's Day was the set by the Roman Catholic Church to supersede an ancient pagan ceremony of Lupercalia, the dawning of Springtime fertility. It's no coincidence that the middle of February (in the northern hemisphere) is the time when spring bulbs begin to poke through the earth as nature shrugs off the mantle of winter, and animals emerge to begin breeding, and THIS is the most likely the original source of the lurve connection!
In the Middle Ages, thanks to the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer, the feast day really became associated with romantics in the modern world...
"For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make."
– Geoffrey Chaucer, Parlement of Foules, 1382
(For this was sent on Valentine's Day when every bird came to choose his mate). ... and in 1415 the first officially recorded Valentine love note was said to have been written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife whilst he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following the Battle of Agincourt. This Valentine has been preserved as part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London.
"Je suis desja d'amour tanné, Ma tres doulce Valentinée..." — Charles d'Orléans, Rondeau VI, lines 1–2
(I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine...)
By the 18th Century lovers in England were embracing the day whole-heartedly, sending flowers, confectionary, and the first ever commercially produced Valentine's cards. The symbols of love were everywhere – hearts, flowers, lovebirds, and Cupid.
Cupid is the God of Desire in classical mythology, the son of Venus and Mars, and is often portrayed as a winged baby with a bow and arrow.
Nowadays, as well as flowers and chocolates, many lovers choose to give jewellery as a gift. What a coincidence - we sell jewellery! Take a look at all the pretty necklace sets, earrings and bracelets available here, and hint for your favourite pieces now! ;) For inspirational love quotes, click here.
Did you know:
You can still see St Valentine's flower adorned skull on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome, though which St Valentine it belonged to is unclear.
Valentine is the patron saint of beekeepers and epileptics.
In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man's Valentine Writer, a guide for romantic young men unable to compose their own lines.
In 1835, 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in Britain.
By 1841 that number increased to over 400,000, with many of them sent anonymously.
In 1868 Cadbury created a decorated box of chocolates in the shape of a heart for Valentine's Day. Chocolate is renowned as an aphrodisiac!
The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US.
An estimated 15 million e-valentines were sent in 2010, with the advent of digital communication.
Valentine's Day as we know it is celebrated in Australia, America, Canada and most of Europe.
Valentine's Day is also now celebrated in some East Asian countries with Chinese and South Koreans spending the most money on Valentine's gifts.
Approximately 62% of adults in western culture celebrate St. Valentine's Day.
Approximately 3% of pet owners will give a Valentine's Day gift to their pets.
Recently February 14 has also become known as SAD Day, Singles Awareness Day, for those with no current romantic attachments.
Every year the Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was set, receives around 1000 Valentine's messages for Juliet.
Here's to love - the only fire for which there is no insurance!
Next week: "Gemology: J is For ..."