The month of February is synonymous with chocolates, love letters, gifts and red roses. Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Valentine day How does it come to be associated with love The history of Valentine day is still a mystery for many. Well there are several opinions among experts .According to one theorist St Valentine day originated from a Roman saint St.Valentine who gave up his life defending the cause of Christianity. He left a farewell letter signed ‘From your Valentine’ for the jailer’s daughter who was friendly with her.
There is still another story which holds that Saint Valentine got killed when he tried to help Christian prisoners escape from Roman prisons. Another version says that Emperor Claudius jailed Saint Valentine who was a priest in his time for defying royal orders. Claudius was a tyrant who had led many campaigns forcing the people to join his armies. He was under the notion that the love of the families was a barrier to his military quest therefore he put a stop to all the marriages and relationship between young people. Saint Valentine and Saint Marius secretly got people married and had to give away their lives in return. Those days Romans used to celebrate the festival of Lupercalia which was a feast in the honor of God .The ceremonies included the writing of names of young maidens in a jar which were taken out by young eligible men. Then they would spend the whole festival together and later would eventually marry. To do away with pagan ceremonies the pastors replaced the names of women with the saints. In this way Pope Gelasius then decided to celebrate 14 February in honor of St.Valentine as early as 496 A.D.Over the course of many centuries this date became synonymous with love and St.Valentine was revered as patron saint for lovers. Love lorn young men and women started the tradition of exchanging poems, flowers and other gifts as token of their love. The Valentine’s Day ball became very popular. Whatever is the truth behind the legends of Saint Valentine he is will remain one of the most revered and loved saints of our period. The tradition continues with the valentines being exchanged with sentimental verses, red roses and chocolates and children also give each other valentine cards at school.
Valentine’s Day trivia and traditions
It is believed that the remains of St.Valentine were taken by Irish priest Father John Spratt as who impressed Pope with his preaching during his visit to Rome. The black and gold casket is open for public viewing on every Valentine day at White friar street church in Dublin.
You must have often seen child faced Cupid the lovable winged deity on valentine day cards and gifts is the son of Roman goddess of Love Venus. The Greek mythology depicts cupid as Eros the son of Aphrodite. He is said to be the one who moves around with bows and arrows wounding the hearts making them fall in love.
The poem written by imprisoned Charles Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415 is believed to be the oldest valentine note being displayed in manuscript collection of the British library in London.
British Museum has displayed the oldest known Valentine card. The first valentine greeting card was created by Esther A Howland in US using ribbons, lace and colorful pictures. From then onwards the commercial production of valentine cards began all over the world. Every year one billion valentine cards are exchanged making it the second largest card sending day of the year. Christmas being the first with 2.6 billion cards.
Carved wooden love spoons embellished with hearts, keys and keyholes were given on valentine day to beloved in Wales.
The city of Verona famous for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet receives thousands of letters addressed to Juliet every year on the valentine day.
The letter ‘X’ stands for kiss as in those early times when most of the people could not read or write they used to make ‘X’ in place of their names in presence of witnesses to show their love.
Symbols of Love
Flowers: Charles II of Sweden introduced the tradition of giving flowers as early as 1700 in Europe. It was a Persian custom of language of flowers adapted according to western traditions. Red rose the symbol of love was favorite flower of Venus .Giving a red rose shows the deepest feelings one has for his or her beloved. It has become the traditional Valentine’s Day flower symbolizing passion and romance.
Lovebirds: Lovebirds are often gifted on Valentine’s Day as they symbolize love and sharing. A pair of doves is also considered part of the tradition as they mate for life and look after their little ones together.
Love Knots: A love knot symbolizes love as its loops have no beginnings and ends. In the earlier period these were made of either ribbon or paper showing everlasting love.
Chocolates and goodies: In America the lovers sent sweet items like sugar wafers, marzipan, sugar plums to their sweethearts. These gifts were held in great esteem as they contained sugar a rare commodity. When beetroot became available after 1800s the sweetmeats including candies were freely given and appreciated. The most popular and common Valentine’s Day gift was and still is candies and chocolates in heart shaped boxes.
Heart: The heart is an inseparable part of Valentine day as it controls human emotions. The tradition of drawing a heart shape is believed to be an attempt to share one’s feelings and to symbolise something unseen. Later it became the symbol of love.
Lace: It was a tradition in medieval period when a woman dropped her laced hankerchief in front of the man she liked, if he picked it up it meant that she wanted to introduce herself to him. It was very romantic to possess lacy handkerchief of a lady.