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Valentines Day - How it All Began

I love Valentines Day. The romance, the frivolity, the chance to dress up in something a little special. The shops are awash with reds, pinks, hearts, chocolates and a myriad of naughty undies to entice and romance the special person in your life. To that end, I wanted to find the perfect little outfit with which to surprise my Valentine. I decided to look into the roots of Valentines Day to help me. So where did Valentines Day originate? I thought it was a holiday created by the shops to make us spend money, but looking into it I found a long rich history.

history of valentines day

Hallmark Cards started producing Valentine cards in 1913, this is where consumerism takes over as the driving force behind this special day, cue heart shaped chocolates etc. Go back a bit further though and you’ll find the real romance. Shakespeare and Chaucer both write about St Valentines Day as a time for lovers to declare their affections. Chaucer declared that just as the Richard II chose his bride-to-be on this day so did all the fowl choose their mates on this day, such was the power of St Valentine. So who was this St Valentine for whom the day was named? Around AD496 Pope Gelasius declared February 14th would be a feast day in honour of St Valentine, a Christian who was martyred under the reign of Emperor Claudius for caring for prisoners. It’s not clear what he did to become a saint, some say he restored the sight of his jailer’s daughter and promptly fell in love with her, sending her a note signed “from your Valentine”. Others say he defied the Emperors decree that young men should be soldiers instead of husbands and performed many illegal marriages for young couples. Allegedly St Valentine died on the 14th but that seems unlikely, more plausible is that the Church decided to re-brand a holy day that was still popular in the Pagan calendar, the festival of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was an ancient Pagan festival celebrated around the 14th February. Naked young men would offer up sacrifices then lightly whip the bare flesh of excitable young women to promote fertility. There was feasting, merriment and generally a good time had by all. So, with all that in mind I still have to choose my outfit. Should I be a modern day flirt, frothy Shakespearean romantic or sweet demure and saintly?

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