Valentine’s Day – or Saint Valentine’s Day – is a day to celebrate love and friendship.
It is a day of chocolates, flowers, dinner dates and cards but it is interesting to note that the historical origins of Valentine’s Day were not particularly rosy.
Marked around the world, the day is associated with both the Roman Empire and Christian religion.
There are many theories as to how the day began but the most noted one originated in Rome.
Emperor Claudius II wanted fierce fighters in his army. The thought was that unmarried soldiers were better fighters as they didn’t worry about what would happen to their families if they died in battle.
To ensure large numbers of men in his army, he outlawed marriage for the young soldiers. He could not stop the force of love, however, and men and women fell in love and searched in secret for ways to officially recognise that love.
The day was named in honour of Saint Valentine of Rome who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. He was caught out by Claudius and put to death.
It first became a day linked with romantic love in the 14th century, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that gifts were first used as a way to show one’s affection for another.
In 18th century England, it evolved into an occasion where lovers expressed their love for one another by gifting flowers, sometimes confectionary and greeting cards, known as ‘Valentines’. Today, we still express our love for each other with gifts like flowers, dinner and cards. Traditionally keys are given to lovers as a symbol to unlock the giver’s heart.
SYMBOLS OF LOVE
The practice of sending handwritten notes of love on Valentine’s Day eventually developed into the burgeoning business of manufactured speciality cards.
Handmade notes were originally decorated with pictures of cupid, hearts and flowers and adorned with lace, ribbon and the dominant colour red. These images of love are still universally recognised today.