St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 14th February, and is nowadays, the day on which Valentines cards are sent anonymously and gifts may be exchanged. It dates back to the 5th century and there are many theories (some quite dark) but it originally had links to a pagan festival known as Lupercalia and is also named after a Christian martyr.
The celebration of Valentine’s Day in February was quite possibly the church’s way of diverting attention from Lupercalia, the pagan fertility festival celebrated in ancient Rome between 13 – 15 February when people celebrated Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture and the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Roman priests would visit a cave where supposedly, Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf and would sacrifice a goat, tearing strips off the hide and dipping them in blood before using them to smack women and crops in the fields to encourage fertility for the coming year!
Another part of the “celebration” was for women to write their names on paper put into a giant urn; eligible bachelors would draw at random a name from the urn; the couple would remain together for the next year, in the hope they would fall in love then marry.
In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius declared the holiday un-Christian, and replaced it with St. Valentine’s Day.
The Catholic church’s records speak of three different martyrs named Valentine or Valentinus who met with their death on 14th February.
- in Rome in the third century, one Valentine went against the emperor Claudius when he decided to outlaw marriage for young men. Valentine continued performing marriage ceremonies in secret and Claudius had him killed for this when he found out. This is probably the link to sending cards anonymously.
- a second Valentine was martyred for allegedly helping Christians escape from prison,
- a third Valentine is said to have sent the first “Valentine” love letter from prison to the gaoler’s daughter, signing it “From Your Valentine” just as we do today.
In the 1300s, February 14 was considered to be the first day of spring in Britain, because it was the beginning of the birds' mating season which makes it quite apt for celebrating a day of love. Geoffrey Chaucer referred to this “ For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every fowl cometh to choose his mate” from his piece titled "The Parlement of Foules" written to mark the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. This gave rise to the theory that he was the first to link love and St. Valentine.
Of course, it was a Frenchman, Charles, the Duke of Orléans, who in 1415, is recorded as sending the earliest surviving Valentine’s note. Having been captured at the Battle of Agincourt, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and wrote to his wife from his cell declaring his love for her and calls her “my very sweet Valentine”.
During the 17th century, another great British writer, Shakespeare also associated the day to love with his line from Ophelia to Hamlet “Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning be time, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.”
The British took to celebrating the day and by the middle of the 18th Century, it was quite common for lovers to send handwritten notes or small gifts expressing affection. In 1797, “The Young Man’s Valentine Writer” was first published including ideas for men who were obviously in love but could not think what to write!
By the 1900s, printing methods were advanced and printed cards widely available replacing handmade versions. Some of these cards were quite risqué with daring, racy suggestions and innuendos that could be sent in anonymity to prudish Victorians.
Although the Royal Mail Service served the English public from 1635, it was not until 1840 and the arrival of the Penny Post that posting a letter became affordable to most ordinary people, making it quite easy to send anonymous St. Valentine’s Day cards for little cost.
In 1910, the famous card company, Hallmark began selling Valentine's Day cards, a tradition which is growing year on year, not to mention giving gifts of jewellery, chocolate and flowers. Today almost half the UK population spend somewhere in the region of £1.3 billion each year on declaring love to their very own special Valentine!
Declaring your love and affection need not cost a fortune but would definitely make his day!
20 best Valentine’s Day Gifts For Him:
1 post or hand deliver a Valentines Day card, there are so many to choose from - if you’re a creative type why not make your own or write a poem or letter.
2 His favourite aftershave or try a new aftershave.
4 If he likes red wine and dark chocolate, then treat him to a bottle of Rubis Chocolate Wine
5 Set the mood and declare your love with this fragranced Lilyflame candle.
6 Make a scrapbook to remember the happy places and things you’ve done together
7 Remind him he’s special with this Spaceform token for his desk or bedside table
8 Chocolates always go down well and perhaps he’ll share!
9 A new pen
10 Plan the trip of a lifetime together from this book of drives
"There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved."
11 A dressing gown
12 A desk lamp
13 A wallet ready for when he can go out and spend again.
14 The message on this mug says it all.
15 He’ll never lose his keys again with this Tile Pro Bluetooth Item Finder
16 For the film buff - Top 100 Movies poster
17 Whiskey - so many to choose from including this Dalmore 12 Gift Set.
18 Find out more with these Conversation starter cards
19 A heart shaped wooden puzzle.
20 A box of favours -includes 10 ready made suggestions plus five for you to create.
Hope you have a lovely day with your special man this Valentines Day!
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