Here we take a look at the history of Valentine’s Day; where did it come from, how has it developed over the years and what is the meaning?
Traditionally, February 14th is celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day in many western countries, as a day when lovers exchange greetings and gifts. Historians suggest that there is more than one St. Valentine, the patron saint of love. The possible two men called Valentine, a popular name at the time, died between the 3rd and 5th centuries. As few records exist from that era, they could be referring to the same man of the cloth from Rome who was martyred by the Roman Catholic Church.
Charles, the French Duke of Orleans, is thought to have been the first person to send poetry to a loved one, to his wife, while he was imprisoned in England during the Battle of Agincourt in 1215. Whilst St. Valentine has been celebrated throughout history, Valentine’s Day is thought to have been invented by the medieval English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote a poem in 1375 referring to February 14th as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. The date of mid-February has also been recognised as the start of the pagan festival of Lupercalia, an Ancient Roman fertility festival.
Cupid, a popular symbol of love, is thought to have been inspired by the Roman God Eros, and recognised as the cherub we still know today, in the 4th century.
In the early 19th century, the first commercial Valentine’s Day cards were sent in England. Almost fifty years later the cards were manufactured in the United States, with mass production taking off in the early 20th century for the emerging middle class to send cards to their loved ones.
John Cadbury, founder of the chocolate company Cadbury’s, created the first heart-shaped box of chocolates in 1861, and people have been sending chocolate as a gift for their Valentine since then.
In 1969 the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from its calendar of feast days because so little is known about him, however he remains recognised as a saint.
Valentine’s Day has now expanded to express love and affection between family and friends, and in appreciation of love for yourself. February 14th is still one of the most popular days in the year for proposals of marriage to be made.