The history and traditions of Valentine’s Day
Things you never knew about the most romantic day of the year
Everywhere you look seems to be painted red right now. You can’t escape Valentine’s Day, no matter how hard you try. But we are always in the mood for romance at Daisy Green. So, as a starting point for our ‘Love edition’ (see the links at the bottom of this article) we decided to look into the history and traditions surrounding the Valentine’s Day phenomenon.
Valentine’s has a long history and there is more than one version of how the Day came to be. The first is that it originates from a person named Valentine, a Roman priest who was martyred for marrying couples clandestinely during periods when Rome had banned marriages.
Another story goes that Valentine refused to give up Christianity and was committed to death. During his time in prison he was said to have befriended the jailer’s daughter and he left her a farewell note signed ‘from your Valentine’. All this apparently happened in 269AD and in 496AD, Pope Gelasius designated 14 February a day to honour St Valentine.
1,740 years on from his death, Valentine is the patron saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers and young people. Today Valentine’s Day is still celebrated in one guise or another the world over.
The earliest record of the sending of a Valentine’s card dates back to 1415. Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent a card to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The original is now preserved in the British Museum. By the 1840s, the first commercial Valentine’s Day card was produced by Esther Howland - she achieved sales of $5,000 dollars in her first year of business. This figure is a fraction of what is spent today.
Hundreds of years ago, many children in England dressed up as adults on Valentine’s Day and went singing from home to home. One verse went:
Good morning to you, Valentine;
Curl your locks as I do mine
Two before and three behind.
Good morning to you, Valentine.
In Wales, wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on 14 February. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favourite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, ‘You unlock my heart!’.
Flowers are a favourite gift to give your Valentine, but if you are thinking of sending a bouquet, it helps to know the traditional meanings of flowers:
The language of love
Red rose – Passionate Love
Camellia – You Are Perfect In Every Way
Red carnation – My Heart Aches For You
Daffodils – You’re The Only One For Me
Blue hyacinths – Our Love Is Constant
Sunflower – I Adore You
Red tulip – You’re a Perfect Lover
We are also introducing you to a flower that isn’t on this list, scented narcissi, a beautiful flower grown in the Isles of Scilly.
Around the world
There are many other countries that celebrate Valentine’s Day on 14 February. These include: Australia, America, Africa, Austria, Canada, Japan, Spain and Italy.
In Finland, Valentine’s Day is celebrated as ‘Ystavanpaiva’ which means ‘Friendship Day’. It is dedicated to the celebration of friendship, where friends as well as lovers exchange tokens.
The Chinese celebrate on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month in the Chinese calendar.
In Japan it is only the women who give presents to men. Men then return gifts to women on White Day on 14 March.
Symbols of love
The Valentines shaped heart is an ever popular symbol of the day, but there are many symbols associated with it, all with their own origin and meaning.
Lace is a traditional gift. Hundreds of years ago, if a woman dropped her handkerchief, a man might pick it up for her. So, if she had her eye on the ‘right man’ she might intentionally drop her handkerchief to encourage him.
Love knots are winding and interlacing loops with no beginning and no end. Like a ring, it is a symbol of everlasting love.
There is a bird found in Africa named the ‘Lovebird’. These birds always sit closely in pairs like sweethearts do. Another bird that symbolise loyalty and love are Doves because they mate for life and share the care of their babies.
Sealed with a X (kiss) started as a Medieval practice. This was done as often people were unable to write so they would sign documents with an X before witnesses. This was sealed with a kiss to show sincerity. Making X synonymous with the kiss.
Present and future
Although there is a history and tradition of bestowing cards and gifts to the ones we love, at Daisy Green we believe it isn’t about how much money is spent. The 14 February falls on a Saturday this year, giving us all the ideal opportunity to spend time with our loved ones. Enjoy it – and all of the other 364 days of the year when a cuddle and kiss is just as important.