Ah, February. The month of love and romance. Cupid is abound, shooting his arrows around Cape Coral. So today on The Blooming Blog we look at the lovely, romantic history of Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day originates from the Feast of Saint Valentine, established on February 14th, 496 by Pope Gelasius I, a few months before his death. The feast day was to honor Saint Valentine of Rome, a Christian martyr associated with love and the patron saint of epilepsy.
Saint Valentine was a Roman clergyman, though it is unknown as to whether he was a priest or a bishop, living in the mid-200s AD. He ministered to persecuted Christians, famously conducting illegal Christian weddings at a time when practicing the faith was forbidden. At that time, Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade conscripted soldiers to marry, believing that unmarried men made better soldiers.
According to legend, Saint Valentine is also the originator of the first Valentine’s card as well. The legend states that Saint Valentine miraculously restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer. Before his execution, Saint Valentine reported wrote a love letter to the same daughter, signed “Your Valentine.” Thus began the practice of sending valentines to your loved ones.
Valentine’s Day association with courtly love came around the 1300s, supposedly connected to Eleanor of Aquitaine, husband of King Henry II of England, who began, quite literally, courtly love. The story goes that while Queen of England she would hold romantic courts with female jurists to handle marital disputes. Just in case you husbands thought you had it bad now.
Modern Valentine’s Day went mainstream after the publication of The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, published in 1797, which contained a number of romantic verses young men could use to court a romantic partner. From there, printers began producing “mechanical valentines”, an early version of the Valentine’s Day card. Valentine’s Day cards became so popular that in less than a century the United Kingdom have special factories making them.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world with unique traditions. In Latin American countries, Valentine’s Day is celebrated as a “Day of Love and Friendship,” and the valentine festivities are not just isolated to lovers, but friends as well. Some countries also celebrate with a “secret friend” gift exchange similar to a secret Santa during Christmas.
In the United States, Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular holidays after Christmas. Over 190 million valentines are sent out annually, not including those exchanged at schools.
But perhaps the most beautiful Valentine’s Day tradition comes from Afghanistan, where the valentine tradition is filled with romantic poetry. These traditions were strengthened during the Taliban regime, where Western traditions were forbidden. During that period, some famed Afghan poets would write defiant romantic poems to freedom. A common poetic phrase at that time expressed the danger perfectly: “I kiss you amid the Taliban.”
But where would Valentine’s Day be without roses? The red rose has long been a symbol of love and romance, so it’s no surprise that it became a stable of the Day of Love, possibly dating back to the 16th Century. The history of Valentine’s Day is long and complex, and a solemn reminder about how lucky we are to freely be able to love.
Happy Valentine’s Day, from all of us at SuEllen’s Floral Company!