Christmas has been and gone, winter still has its icy grip on the world and it’s hard to find something to look forward to. Then, when you turn over the calendar at the end of January and realise it’s only two weeks to Valentine’s Day, boom, your heartbeat flutters and you suddenly find yourself smiling again. The promise of a bit of romance does more to liven up a dreary winter for most people than the sight of the first snowdrops poking their heads through the frosty ground proving spring is just around the corner – somewhere.
For anyone with a romantic nature, Valentine’s Day is one of the best days of the year, but who was Saint Valentine and why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 14th February? Is it really traditional to send flowers and chocolates or an unsigned card with a slushy poem inside and an arrow lancing cupid surrounded by hearts on the front? Or has that evolved out of commercial enterprise taking advantage of those too shy to declare their feelings in person?
Who Was Saint Valentine? 🏹
While his true identity is often questioned, before he was sainted, Valentine was believed to be a practising priest who helped persecuted Christians during the days of the Roman Empire. He was also reputed to have performed the miracle of returning sight to a young blind girl. He was executed for his beliefs on the 14th of February by the then emperor, Claudius II, in the late third century. Valentine was buried in a Christian cemetery in Rome.
Almost two centuries later, Pope Gelasius I ordained that a feast day should be held annually commemorating the day of his death. The feast day in honour of the now canonized Valentine was introduced to divert interest from a pagan fertility festival celebrated in Rome around the same dates. The Roman god, Cupid, played a major part in the pagan festivities. Some of the attributes associated with Cupid were transferred to Saint Valentine and the saint became symbolised by flowers, particularly roses, and bees. He was also named the patron saint of love.
Saint Valentine’s Day Becomes Valentines Day ️️❤️
The celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day remained a religious festival after its inception for over nine centuries. It wasn’t until the late fifteenth century it began to take on something of the familiar form it has today. Back then there were many social restrictions placed on courting and relationships even towards the end of the medieval period.
It was a time represented in literature by knights in shining armour rushing to rescue damsels in distress. It might sound romantic but if he was lucky, the knight in question, no matter how much he adored the female, might have received a sisterly kiss on the cheek as a reward for her salvation. If not, he’d have had to make do with getting down on bended knee and kissing her hand instead.
That was about as far as public demonstrations of affection were permitted to go. It was during this period, particularly among the literary people of the time, that small tokens, gifts or handmade cards as declarations of romantic interest began to be exchanged. Many of the tokens were given anonymously and let’s face it, even in our modern times, there’s nothing more exciting than discovering you have a secret admirer. Back then, in a life with no TV or social media, it must have been equivalent to being given a box set of Game of Thrones or watching Titanic on a big screen for the first time. As strange as it may seem, while Saint Valentine was an Italian, Valentines Day as we know it is a British custom adopted over the years by other countries.
Symbols Of Love 💝
The symbols of love really haven’t changed much over the centuries. What was used back then to express an amorous interest or undying love is still being used today. The same symbols still carry the same age-old significance. Their meanings are simple and easy to interpret. A red heart, cupid with his bow and arrow and a pair of white doves carrying a heart in their beaks all speak for themselves.
In medieval times through to the Victorian age, Valentines Day cards were lovingly hand-crafted and inscribed with a self-penned verse. It was, it has to be said, one way for the straight-laced Victorians to express themselves without having to worry about moral or social censure. It was during the Victorian era that the whole idea of Valentine’s Day really took off and became one of the British nation’s favourite traditions. With a good postal service operating, sending Valentines cards in Victorian times suddenly became big business and they began to be produced in factories up and down the country. Handmade or mass produced, they still carried the same symbols of love.
Roses have always been the preferred flower to present to a love interest in the hope of stirring a satisfactory response. They’re a flower that have retained their meanings over the years too with red for passion, pink for true love and white for loyalty.
Valentine’s Day In A Digital Age 😍
In modern times, Valentine’s Day is as much a celebration of a loving relationship as it is a way of expressing unrequited love. Couples that have been married for years exchange cards and gifts on Valentine’s Day as a way of showing their continuing love and loyalty. It’s still a day for cards adorned with hearts, a box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses. If you’re a man you might even get a new pair of socks or an air freshener for your car. But what can you do if you want to let someone know you’ve taken a shine to them and want to do it anonymously? Unless you’re pretty resourceful, in this digital age it can be very difficult.
While you might have found the perfect Valentine’s Day meme to express your feelings and have the ideal emojis to back it up, it’s impossible to send it anonymously by email or via a facebook or whatsapp message. Does that mean the age of secret admirers is dead? Has the digital age killed off romance? Guaranteed whoever invented the internet didn’t foresee the problems they were about to cause to budding relationships all over the world. Is there a solution? Of course there is. Make or buy a card and get a friend to deliver it and if love is meant to be, don’t worry, Valentine’s Day or not, it’ll happen.