Valentines Day - The History
There are several different traditions explaining the history of St. Valentine and the designation of February 14th as Valentine’s Day. There were three early Christian saints of that name according to the Catholic Encyclopaedia. The most popular tradition is that Valentine was a Roman Christian martyr who was killed on February 14 269 AD; whilst in jail he had been befriended by the jailer’s daughter to whom he sent a farewell letter signed “From your Valentine”. The Roman Emperor at the time was the infamous Claudius who had decreed that there should be no engagements or marriages in Rome because he needed young men to join his armies. Valentine was a priest who helped young Christian couples to marry in secret, and when he was found out he was sent to appear before Claudius who said he would pardon him if he renounced his Christian faith. Valentine refused and the Emperor ordered that he should be beaten to death and decapitated. Click here for Valentine Gifts
Prior to the third century, February 14th was an ancient Roman holiday to honour the queen of the Roman gods, Juno who was also the goddess of marriage and women. There was also a tradition on the evening of the 14th that teenage girls would write their names on slips of paper and place them all in a jar. The young men would then draw out the names of the girls and they would pair with them for the duration of the fertility festival of Lupercalia on February 15th. These young boys and girls would often remain paired for a whole year and would sometimes fall in love and marry.
When Rome became Christianised, the priests endeavoured to Christianise all the ancient pagan festivals (much as the ancient pagan festival held on December 25th to celebrate the lengthening of the day was Christianised to celebrate the birth of Jesus). It wasn’t until 496 AD that the then Pope Gelasius designated the 14th as “St. Valentine’s Day”.As Christianity spread over the world, so did the tradition of celebrating this feast day. In 14th Century England, Valentine’s day became known as a day for lovers as the tradition of courtly love flourished. According to some scholars the link with romance was first made by the poet Chaucer in a poem to celebrate the 13 year old Richard 11’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia in 1382. A “High Court of Love” was established in Paris on Valentine’s Day 1400 to deal with cases of relationships between men and women, when women selected the Judges on the basis of poetry readings! Click here for Valentine Gifts
One of the earliest examples of a Valentine letter was sent by Charles, duke of Orleans in 1415 while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following the battle of Agincourt. This letter can be seen still in the British Museum, and the first two lines of his poem read :
"Je suis desja d’amour tanne
In the Middle Ages Valentine was one of the most popular saints in France and England, and by the mid-eighteenth century the practice of giving affectionate notes to a loved one was commonplace. As the printing technology improved, the practice of giving printed cards on this day replaced the written letters.
In 1836 Pope Gregory XV1 was so impressed by the preaching of an Irish priest, Father John Spratt, that he gave him a gift of what were claimed to be the bones of St Valentine. The remains were placed in a gold and black casket and are kept in Whitefriar Street Church where they can be viewed on Valentine’s Day.
In the United States, it is said that Miss Esther Howland sent the first Valentine card in 1840, after having received a card from an admirer in England. She then began mass-producing them, using ribbons, lace and pictures to decorate them. It is estimated that around a billion valentine cards are sent each year, around 25% of all cards sent and second only to Christmas cards.
In the 20th century, the custom developed into giving gifts to a loved one, usually from a man to a woman, which included choclates, flowers or jewellery. There are differing customs in different countries, and in Wales the tradition developed of giving intricately carved wooden lovespoons. Click here for Valentine Gifts
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