Monday, August 15, 2011

The origins of Valentines Day


Every year February 14th is celebrated as a day for love, exchange of gifts, promises of eternal passion, and more. The inspired pen poems inspired by their love and admiration for the women of their dreams while others just go to shops and buy commercially available verses. 


Valentines means candy, chocolates, perfume, red hearts, balloons, and more. Have you ever wondered when the celebration first originated? Well in ancient Rome, February heralded the coming to spring a time for rejuvenation, fertility, and growth. 


In ancient times, Romans celebrated in February a festival to honor the god of fertility who provided them with progeny and ensured a god crop. In Rome February 15th was celebrated as the feast of Lupercalla and Feb 14th as a holiday in honor of Juno the queen of Roman gods and goddesses. On the eve of Lupercalla a glass jar was filled to the brim with chits on which were penned the names of all eligible girls. Then young men would draw a chit each from the jar and the girl whose name was on the chit would be his partner for the celebration. This was a method by which ancient Romans introduced eligible boys and girls to one another.


Much later in the 3rd century BCE when Emperor Claudius II ruled Rome there lived a priest called Valentine. And when Claudius passed a decree that young men in his empire were not to marry, Valentine defied him and used to consecrate marriages secretly. He was sentenced to death and thrown into prison. While awaiting his execution Valentine penned a letter to his love and signed it "from your Valentine." After his death Valentine became a martyr and saint and was popularly known as St Valentine.


Wonderful legends are woven around Valentine's Day. In Wales young people exchanged as gifts wooden spoons which were hand carved with decorations of hearts and key holes. The decorations conveyed "you hold the key to my heart or you unlock my heart." In other places women were given gifts of clothes and if they accepted the gift then it conveyed that they were wiling to marry the man who has sent the gift.


In 1415, Charles, the Duke of Orleans is known to have penned, from his prison in the tower of London , what were known as "poetical amorous addresses" to his wife in France, he is believed to be one of the earliest creators of valentines.


Just as companies like Hallmark sell cards for Valentines Day in the 15th century people bought little booklets with verse in them ---they then made their own valentines using the verse to express their thoughts. For example a valentine could have the hand drawn illustration of a knight and his lady with Cupid the god of love shooting arrows into the knight's heart.
In the US it was after 1723, that popularity of the celebration grew. People imported the "booklets of verse" all the way from England and copied the verses on to gilt edged papers. Then a Ms. Ester Howard in around 1830 decided to be original and create American Valentines that were marketed as Worcester Valentines.


Since then with changing centuries and tastes the celebration has taken on new hues with young men and women, children, as well as older couples creating newer ways to celebrate and declare their undying love.