Do You Know Much About Valentines Day History?
Valentines Day Has Had MANY Changes Over the Years
This Valentines Day, lovers, friends and family members will take time from their busy lives and honor one another with tokens of love and affection. Small children will cut Valentine cards from pink and red paper, mothers will bake heart-shaped cookies and flowers will arrive at the doorsteps of sweethearts everywhere. While history is rife with various interpretations of how Valentines Day came to be, several key events seem to have played an early role in creating the celebration as we know it today.
The ancient Romans celebrated a young man’s rite to manhood with a pagan ritual called Lupercalia, named after the god Lupercus. In mid-February, young women’s names were placed in a lottery and single men were permitted to choose a name and then claim the lady as a sexual partner for the remainder of the year.
In 270 AD, a priest by the name of Valentine was said to have gone against the cruel Emperor Claudius by secretly performing marriage ceremonies for soldiers. Claudius had mandated that the young men remain single since they were, apparently, reluctant to fight for the empire once they had a loved one at home. Valentine was eventually caught, persecuted and beheaded, but shortly before his death, he was said to have fallen in love with the prison guards daughter and sent her a letter professing his affections.
Eventually, Valentine was declared a saint and his name was associated with unrequited love and generosity. While Lupercalia was still celebrated, the old rituals were replaced with the more civilized practice of simply giving loved one’s notes or letters.
In 496 AD, the pious Pope Gelasius abolished Lupercalia entirely, declaring Saint Valentines Day as a Christian holiday. The names of various saints were written on note cards and men and women were encouraged to draw names and use their holy teachings as a guidepost for good moral behavior throughout the year.
In 1382, the famed poet Geoffrey Chaucer created a Valentine poem entitled Parlement of Foules in celebration of the engagement between King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. The first official Valentine card was actually a love letter sent in 1415, sent by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London.
In the 17th century, Charles of Sweden introduced the red rose from Persia as the official flower of love and devotion as inspired by Venus. By the early 1800s, commercial cards were introduced, using hearts, cupids and doves. In 1847 a woman by the name of Esther Howland established the first Valentine card factory, inspired by earlier English designs.
The celebration of Valentines Day expanded into a tremendous commercial enterprise by the second half of the 20th century. Small gifts were introduced in addition to the flowers and card exchange. In the 1980s, the diamond industry took note of the profit potential and launched a huge advertising campaign to capture a share of the retail market.
Though long removed from its religious origins, Valentines Day is the second largest card giving holiday after Christmas and remains a beloved symbol of friendship and affection both in the US and abroad.