Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

Today is Valentine’s Day and over the past while, I have been researching the origins of this lovely day. Here is what I discovered.

Who was Saint Valentine? There are several saints named Valentine who were honoured on February 14 and hence no one definitive saint has been given this distinction. However, a popular candidate is Valentine of Rome who was a priest. The story goes that the ruling emperor at the time outlawed all engagements and marriages in Rome. At the time, the emperor was having trouble recruiting soldiers for his military and suspected it was because the men wanted to stay at home with their lovers.  Valentine married couples in secret and was punished with death (AD 269).

Reference: Curious Events in History by Michael Powell, 2007.

What are the origins of this day? Around the time of St. Valentine’s death (AD 269), packs of wolves were known to attack animal herds. In hopes of keeping their herds safe, shepherds dedicated an annual festival (called Lupecalia) held from February 13 to 15 to Lupercus, who is the Roman god of shepherds. As part of the festival’s rituals, young women’s names were put into a box and then drawn by the young men. These couples were paired off for the rest of the year. In AD 496, Lupecalia was renamed St. Valentine’s Day and February 14 chosen to mark the occasion.

References:  Curious Events in History by Michael Powell, 2007 and Wikipedia.

History behind Valentine’s cards: Valentine’s greetings date back to the Middle Ages when lovers sang or recited their valentines.  Written valentines began to appear around 1400 when they were often replaced with Valentine’s Day gifts.  Some were made of paper while others were made with lace and ribbon. The oldest valentine known to exist dates back to this time and is currently housed at the British Museum.  The production of valentines in factories began in the 1800s. Today, approximately one billion valentines are delivered around the world.

Reference: Greeting Card Museum 

Interesting Facts:

  • Venus is the Roman goddess of love. Her son is Cupid.
  • The red rose was Venus’ favourite type of flower.
  • Giving a Valentine’s gift to a pet is not uncommon.
  • Teachers receive the most valentines, followed by children, mothers, wives and sweethearts.
  • Hallmark Cards produced its first valentine in 1913.
  • Some consider Casanova the world’s greatest lover.
  • In the past, physicians advised their patients to eat chocolate in order to soothe their grief for a lost love.
  • Valentine’s Day is not an official holiday.

Valentine’s Day Humour: A friend of mine, who knew I was researching Valentine’s Day, sent this clever joke to me.

“Valentine’s Day is cancelled this year. Mathematical proof: 14 – 02 – 12 = 0.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone!!

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