Did you know that approximately 1 billion Valentine's cards are exchanged making it the second most popular card exchange annual event after Christmas! Every year on the 14th February we exchange cards, gifts and chocolates with our ‘special someone’ all in the name of St. Valentine…but exactly who is St. Valentine, and where did this tradition originate from Catholicism recognises 3 different Saints named Valentine or Valentinus all of whom were put to death…not very romantic! One legend argues that Valentine was a priest who served during 3rd Century Rome. Emperor Claudius the 2nd decided that soldiers who were single were better than those who had wives and families so outlawed marriage for young men. Realising the injustice of this decree, Valentine defied Claudius and continued in secret, to perform marriages for young lovers. When Claudius discovered this was happening Valentine Was killed!
Others suggest that as Christians were often facing being beaten and tortured, Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help them. According to another legend, the first “Valentine” was actually sent by an imprisoned Valentine himself after falling in love with a young girl who visited him during his confinement. It was alleged that he signed a letter “from your Valentine” before he was killed, which is an expression that is often still used today.
The truth behind the Valentine legend is slightly murky, however, all the stories emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and perhaps most importantly a romantic figure. It was Pope Gelasius who declared February 14th as St Valentines Day. It was much later in the Middle Ages that the day became associated with Love. In France and England, it was commonly believed that the 14th February was the beginning of birds ‘mating’ Season, which added to the idea that Valentine's Day should be a day for Romance.
By the 1900s due to the improvements in technology, written letters were replaced by printed cards and at a time when direct expressions of feelings were discouraged and sometimes difficult, ready-made cards gave people who were embarrassed to tell someone how they really felt a way of expressing true feelings. This is why we often see cards just signed from ‘Your Valentine” It has been estimated by the Greeting Card Association that 1 billion Valentine's cards get sent every year with Women purchasing 85% of them!
In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”. Some common Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Perhaps a more recent tradition is that of getting engaged and the giving of engagement rings, which is seen as a symbol of love and commitment. Proposals are commonly made by the Man except for when we have a leap year which sees Women, who are fed up of waiting to be asked, pluck up the courage to ask instead!
Some interesting facts about Valentine's…
• Only 3% of pet owners buy cards or gifts for their beloved animal
• Sealed with a kiss – Allegedly ‘X’ first symbolized a kiss when illiterate people would sign their name with a cross. They would then kiss the ‘X’ to show their sincerity
• And finally…the home of Shakespeare star-crossed lovers, Verona, receives hundreds of letters each year addressed to Juliet!
Aren’t we all a romantic bunch?!
Keep your eye out for my next blog that will follow the tradition of proposals…