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If you walk into a shopping centre in February, chances are you will find pink hearts, red roses and other valentines memorabilia being sold. For many couples, it is an opportunity to show their love for each other. But Valentine's Day hasn’t always been red heart sweets and romantic dinners; myths, legends and historical events from cultures across the world have informed how we celebrate the day of love.
In this blog, we trace the history of this significant day.
The legend of St. Valentine
St. Valentine was born in 3rd century Rome and became a priest. He ministered to persecuted christians and evangelised to many Roman leaders. One such leader, Judge Asterius, said that if Valentine could heal his blind adopted daughter, he would convert. The legend goes that Valentine healed the Judge's daughter and that the Judge was immediately baptised.
St. Valentine allegedly performed secret christian weddings to protect christians from enlisting in the army. He was thrown in prison for his crimes and awaited death. While in prison, he fell in love with the Judge’s daughter and proceeded to exchange romantic letters with her that were signed ‘from your Valentine.’ From here it’s believed that the tradition of writing love notes was started.
The pagan festival of Lupercalia
Lupercalia was a Pagan Roman festival. It’s believed that Lupercalia comes from Lupus meaning wolf and possibly refers to the she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. Both Lupercalia and the martyrdom of St. Valentine fall on the 14th of February. Their common themes mean they are both associated with the day of love.
Lupercalia was a festival that celebrated fertility and purification. One ritual involved men cutting parts from sacrificed animals (called thongs or febura) and running through the town slinging them at women. This was thought to make the women more fertile. Fortunately, this is not a practice we continue for Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day morphing through the centuries
So we know how Valentine's Day started, but how did it reach its current form? The strong romantic associations of the season all come down to the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer wrote a lot about courtly love, and famously penned The Canterbury Tales which many will recognise as the legend of King Arthur. One poem Chaucer wrote called The Parliament of Fowls was critical in associating Valentine’s Day with romantic love. In the poem, Chaucer is guided into a garden where all earthly beauty and love resides. In this garden, on St. Valentine’s Day, the birds come to choose their partners:
For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Of every species that men know, I say,
And then so huge a crowd did they make
Duke of Orleans wrote notable love poems referencing St. Valentine. The Frenchman composed over 60 poems for his wife, Bonne d’Armagnac, during his 25 year imprisonment in England. From his cell, he writes:
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon,
And I for you was born too late.
God forgives he who has estranged
Me from you for the whole year.
Unfortunately by the time he was released, the Duke’s wife had died. Still, the romantic legacy of his poetry lives on in Valentine’s Day letter writing.
Cupid is the Roman god of desire, often depicted with a bow and arrow ready to make people fall in love. The most famous of his stories, that of Cupid and Psyche, shows him falling in love with a beautiful woman his mother, Venus, sent him to kill, by falling on one of his own arrows. This story has entranced people since it was first told, and inspired many famous artworks since. It was only natural that the god of desire would become an icon for Valentine’s Day.
Celebrate the modern significance of Valentine’s Day with Floristique
Today, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to draw on these traditions and show your love to your partner and family members. There are many ways you can celebrate this season of love. Try planning an activity together or surprise your valentine with flowers and a hand-written note. Find your perfect Valentine’s Day bouquet and take advantage of our stellar delivery service. Browse Valentine’s bouquets online and order the perfect flowers for your significant other today!