We could think of nothing better for our St Valentine’s Day blog than to dig up a few fun facts for your light reading pleasure, while you admire your dozen red roses and bite into that first chocolate. Because, while the more cynical amongst us may think that Valentine’s Day was a marketing invention by Hallmark Cards, they would be dead wrong. There’s a LOT more to it than that.
Oh really? Go on then, smarty pants, who was this Valentine guy anyway?
Well actually there was more than one Valentine.
There were at least three recognized by the Catholic church. All martyred for one reason or another, poor things. The one with the strongest claim to being ‘the’ Valentine was a priest called Valentinus, who lived during the reign of the second Roman Emperor Claudius in the 3rd century AD (told you it started before Hallmark). When it dawned on Claudius that single men made more willing soldiers than married men with families, he outlawed marriage for young men. The meanie. Our Hero however, thought this was most unfair and defied Claudius, continuing to perform marriages for young lovers (presumably only Christian ones) in secret. You can guess what happens next – old Claudius found out and had him executed. But Val’s fame lived on, and by the Middle Ages Valentine was already one of the most popular saints in England and France. Take that Claudius.
Why is St Valentine’s Day in February?
While February may well have been when the unlucky Valentine was killed, it seems likely the Christian church of the time also tried to’Christianize’ a particularly rowdy pagan Roman celebration called Lupercalia, a fertility festival, that fell on Feb 13-15. By the end of the 5th century Lupercalia had been outlawed as too heathen by those prissy Christians, and Pope Gelasius officially declared February 14th as St Valentine’s Day. Ta-daa! Lucky he did, we say, ‘Happy Lupercalia Day’ just doesn’t have the right ring to it somehow.
Let me put that in writing.
While Valentine’s greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, written ‘Valentines’ did not appear until after 1400. By the middle of the 18th century it was common for friends and lovers to exchange small tokens or handwritten notes, but by 1900 printed cards began to replace the handwritten note.
Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 BILLION Valentines cards are sent every year. 85% are purchased by women – hmmmm.
FUN FACT: St Valentine is the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages. But also of beekeeping, amongst other things. Honey with your chocolate?
Sweets for your sweet?
That brings us neatly to our favourite part of St Valentine’s Day – chocolate.
Why do we give chocolate on St Valentine’s Day? Chocolate is supposed to symbolize affection, attraction, deep love, luxury, passion and sensuality. Well with all that on the resume plus it is considered to be an aphrodisiac by some, plus it is DELICIOUS, there’s no contest is there? In 1861 in England, Richard Cadbury of the famous British chocolate making family, invented the first heart-shaped chocolate box especially for Valentine’s Day. And that was that.
FUN FACT – It is said that Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses were named thus because of the sound and motion made by the machine as it deposited the chocolate on the conveyor belt. Oh dear, that’s not very romantic.
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Just like chocolate has it all over the competition in the candy world on February 14th, red roses have become the flower of choice on this day, and no doubt are responsible for the mass exhaustion of florists everywhere by the time February 15th rolls around. The tradition of giving Valentine’s Day flowers dates back to the late 17th century, when the ‘Language of Flowers’ became popular. By Victorian times, the Language of Flowers was all the rage, and red roses being symbolic of true love and passion, were the obvious choice for young men everywhere to give to their beloved on this special day.
FUN FACT: Each year in the US alone about 110 million roses are said to be sold on February 14th.
No doubt you will enjoy St Valentine’s Day all the more now you know this enlightening and educational Valentine’s trivia. AND it might come in handy at the next pub quiz night. But however you choose to celebrate the ultimate romantic day in the calendar, we hope you will be with the one you love most. St Valentine would approve.