How this Happy Day happened
Conversation hearts, truffles galore and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates—these are the symbols of Valentine’s Day for many lovers and friends around the world.
The Big Q: But where did this tradition come from?
The Big A: The roots of St. Valentine’s Day go back to Roman times, but candy gift giving is a much more recent development.
Valentine’s Day is named for 2 or 3 Christian Roman saints, both named Valentine and unconnected to romantic love.
The 1st mention of St. Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday appeared in the writings of Chaucer in Y 1382.
With the Medieval period came a new focus on illicit but chaste courtly love, and it is here that we see some of the familiar iconography begin to appear.
Knights would give roses to their maidens and celebrate their beauty in songs from afar.
By the 1840’s, the notion of Valentine’s Day as a holiday to celebrate romantic love had taken over most of the English-speaking world.
It was the Golden Age of Cupid
The Victorians embraced the notion of courtly love and showered each other with elaborate cards and gifts.
Into this love-game came Richard Cadbury, scion of a British chocolate manufacturing family and responsible for sales at a Key point in his company’s history.
Mr. Cadbury had improved its chocolate making technique so as to extract pure cocoa butter from whole beans, producing a very palatable drinking chocolate.
This process resulted in an excess amount of cocoa butter, which Mr. Cadbury used to produce many varieties of what was then called “eating chocolate.”
He recognized a marketing opportunity for the new chocolates and started selling them in beautifully decorated boxes that he designed.
From there images of Cupids and roses came to decorate heart shaped boxes. Mr. Cadbury marketed the boxes as having a dual purpose. When the chocolates were all eaten, the box was so pretty that it could be used to store mementos, from locks of hair to love letters.
The boxes grew elaborate until the outbreak of WWII, when sugar was rationed and Valentine’s Day celebrations were scaled down.
Victorian Era Cadbury boxes still exist, and many are treasured family heirlooms or valuable items prized by collectors.
Hang on there is more
On 14 February, 270 AD, Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed.
Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.
To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on 14 February.
Legend has it that while in jail, St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine.”
For his great service, Valentine was named a Saint after his death.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “At least 3 different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February.” One was a priest in Rome, the 2nd was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy) and the 3rd St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.
Legends vary on how the martyr’s name became connected with romance. The date of his death may have become mingled with the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love.
On these occasions, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to the Feast of Lupercalia, and he declared that 14 February 14 be celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day.
Gradually, 14 February became a date for exchanging love messages, poems and simple gifts of roses and candies.
“On this day, I always remember the happiness of my mother. February 14th was just HER DAY – her special day of the Year! To my father, she was his queen! He would have his roses, 12 white with one bright red one in the middle, coming knocking at the door, delivered by the ever so happy messenger. It was as if my mother would be there waiting for the door bell to ring and as she would open it we would hear her special thanks to him. Our house was one of his many stops of the day, but usually the first because he would start his day singing when he would be greeted by the excitement of my mother. She was just like a little girl when they have just received that extra special gift.
“Many are too young to remember such songs as: My Funny Valentine by Frank Sinatra, You Belong to My Heart by Bing Crosby along with I want to hold your Hand by the Beatles plus Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley and I’ll be there by Michael Jackson. They were are favorites as we grew up and as many entered their adult years. Remember they were all about forbidden love and following your heart and each hoping that special love would be last forever!
“Today those lyrics have been replaced by: I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston, The Way You Look Tonight” by Tony Bennett and Blank Space by Taylor Swift – all still romantic for one’s special Valentine.
“Perhaps, your mother, wife or girlfriend was your Queen today. I hope so! Then, that an old tradition has remain alive and well. So, here’s a thought: you might also think of an additive and arrange a romantic meal with champagne or a special bottle of wine at home by candlelight or in a restaurant or even having a surprise night in a hotel,” says LTN editorial contributor Bruce WD Barren.
Have a Happy St. Valentine’s Day