A brief history of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is but a few days away and the high street is awash with pink and red hearts.

Whether you hate it, love everything about it or are merely ‘meh’ about the whole thing it’s pretty impossible to ignore.

However, as this website points out the origins of our modern-day smooch-fest are darker, bloodier and more muddled than you might suppose.

There’s certainly much more to it than the bit of the story most of us are familiar with: the execution by order of Emperor Claudius II, at different points of the 3rd Century, of two young men both named Valentine. It was the honouring of their martyrdom, by the Catholic Church, that gave us the celebration of St Valentine’s Day.

And that cuts short a very long and convoluted story that begins in ancient Rome with the feast of Lupercalia. This orgy of decadence involved sacrificial offerings of animals, nakedness, drunkenness, and flagellation before moving on to Shakespeare and Chaucer, and ultimately the Hallmark card industry.

However, the path to the cynical commercialisation of the festival that we know and *coughs* – love today probably begins with Ancient Rome. In this instance it’s the feast of Lupercalia, which ran from Feb 13 to Feb 15 that you have to blame/thank – delete as applicable.

This being the Romans you won’t be at all surprised to know that this feast involved sacrificing animals, nakedness, drunkenness and flagellation. Sounds like fun huh?

The waters became muddied even more in the 5th Century when a Pope with a name that sounds like an ice-cream – Gelasius – combined St Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia in an effort to stamp out the earlier pagan rituals.

Confused? You will be. At around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day. Being as how ‘Galatin’ meant lover of women and sounded similar to Valentine it’s likely the two became intertwined.

Shakespeare in love

The romantic ideas that we now associate with the festival gained traction from Chaucer and Shakespeare both of whom did much to romanticize it. As a result of their literary efforts Valentine’s Day became more popular throughout Britain and the rest of Europe.

At least Shakespeare’s outpourings covered all aspects of love. There was the silver-tongued, honey-glazed stuff yes. But there was also the Lover’s Complaint:

From off a hill whose concave womb reworded
A plaintful story from a sist’ring vale,
My spirits t’attend this double voice accorded,
And down I laid to list the sad-tuned tale,
Ere long espied a fickle maid full pale,
Tearing of papers, breaking rings atwain,
Storming her world with sorrow’s wind and rain.   

(NB: Found here: http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com)

Along with the English settlers the tradition eventually crossed the Atlantic to the New World. Here the 19th Century industrial revolution made mass-produced cards possible and Hallmark Cards of Kansas City were not slow to spot an opportunity. And the rest you know.

The current object of my affections

However, as fabulously fascinating as all this is, the current object of my affections are these super funky and slightly kitsch Scrabble style fairy lights. Doing what I do they were impossible to resist – and they were reduced in the post-Christmas sales!

Okay – so I’m easily pleased. But they brighten up my workspace nicely. And no scrabbling to see what I’m doing.

 Show your business some blogging love

If you have a business and you it needs showing some love in the form of  some regular blogging and content marketing I can help with that. You’ll find my contact details here: http://www.aaedits.co.uk/contact/

By Angela Atkinson