When 14th February comes around and you are fighting through hundreds of shoppers to get that perfect piece of Valentine’s Day jewellery, the whole holiday can seem like a bit of a pain. Knowing the history behind the day may not change this permanently, but it can certainly make you feel a lot more knowledgeable and retain the holiday’s fun.
Violent Encounters and the Composition of Love
There is a certain degree of mystery surrounding the origins of St Valentine’s Day, with no one 100% sure exactly where it came from. Despite this, February has been seen as a month of romance and love for a long time, with 14th February holding both Ancient Roman and Christian traditions. In Rome, 13th, 14th and 15th February were celebrated as Lupercalia; a Pagan festival that celebrated fertility. This appears to be where the idea of a day of romance comes from. The next development came at around 197AD, when Valentine of Terni, a Christian, was martyred. Legend has it that he was tortured and beheaded in Rome due to his Christian faith: hardly the stuff of a best-selling rom-com. The fun continues about ninety years later when Valentine of Rome is martyred under Emperor Claudius. Rumour has it that he was killed for helping those in prison. So far, it is not looking like the day of romance and love that has become a mainstay of society. Everything began to get a little more positive around 496AD however, when the Pope decreed that 14th February was to be a Christian day of feast known as St Valentine’s Day.
Fast-forward one thousand years and poet Geoffrey Chaucer gets in on the fun. He composed ‘Parlement of Foules,’ or ‘Parliament of Fowls,’ which sees the protagonist passing through Venus’ temple full of doomed lovers: how you may feel after shopping for hours for the perfect Valentine’s Day jewellery perhaps. Nevertheless, the poem also celebrated Richard II’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia, showing one of the first tangible links between St Valentine’s Day and love.
This link between the two continued as, a few years after Chaucer’s poem, Paris opened the High Court of Love to deal with matters of the heart such as marriages and infidelity. Paris continued to build its reputation as the city of love in 1415 when the Frenchman Charles, Duke of Orleans sent a Valentine’s letter to his other half whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London. This note-passing trend gained widespread popularity in England around the mid-18th Century, with rhymes and poems becoming more popular. In fact, the trend caught on so quickly that by the early 19th Century factories were beginning to produce cards on a huge scale. By the early 1900s, Hallmark had begun to produce the cards that we are bombarded with today; if you are one of the lucky ones of course. The date has become a celebratory event in many nations and expectations are now high when it comes to giving your loved one a card to mark the special occasion.
Celebratory, Cynical Consumerism
It is easy to be cynical about St Valentine’s Day and its inherent level of consumerism but try and look on the bright side. If you are brave enough to navigate the heaving mass of frantic shoppers, your partner or the person you are hoping to impress could be a whole lot happier. Who knows, you may even receive some chocolates, wine, or a few bits and pieces yourself. Furthermore, let’s face it. No one has ever turned down a present or a card that compliments them. Don’t take the day too seriously but see it as an opportunity to have a little fun and express the way you feel. You can agree to buy joke presents for your partner, or remain anonymous if you are not one for public declarations of love. Either way, there is no need to get too embarrassed if you do not want to. The holiday looks set to stay and continues to grow, with an estimated one billion Valentine’s cards sent worldwide in 2010. St Valentine’s Day is fast becoming one the most stalwart events in our celebratory calendar, so get your skates on and get buying that Valentine’s Day jewellery today.
Sam Mulder loves romance and believes that if you love it too you should find the perfect Valentine’s Day jewellery by going on a bit of a shopping spree.
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