Cupid, draw back your bow! February 13 2014


For all you star-crossed lovers out there, Valentine's Day is fast approaching. The vision of hearts, flowers and wild romance makes life nothing but a dream...

And for all you singletons out there, don't despair, it's only one day of the year!

Traditionally, Spring begins on St Valentine's Day (February 14 incase you didn't know!), the day it was believed that birds paired into couples.

This year romantic Brits are expected to spend around £1 billion on cards, flowers, chocolates and gifts!!! Yes, you read correct, £1 billion!!!

In the 18th Century, cards and gifts were sent anonymously but nowadays we often make it clear who is sending each "Valentine".

Saint Valentine

But where does Valentine's Day come from? And who was Saint Valentine?

Was he?
a) A 3rd Century Priest in Rome who performed secret marriages when the Roman Emperor Claudius II thought single soldiers were more likely to enlist in the army?

b) Someone who helped Christians which was a crime at the time?

c) Someone who was responsible for giving the jailer's blind daughter back her eyesight and before his execution, he sent her a note saying, "From your Valentine"? Thus, the phrase is still used.

d) All, some or none of the above?

If you guessed d) then pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to those love-heart shaped box of chocolates that you've been salivating over in the supermarket since January!

Stories about Saint Valentine are scarce and vary wildly but he is widely believed to have been a 3rd Century Priest in Rome who was imprisoned and executed supposedly on... Yep, you've guessed it on February 14. So...

Where did he live?
According to the official biography of the Diocese of Terni, Bishop Valentine was born and lived in Interamna.

How did he die?
The Emperor Claudius II ordered for his arrest and death by stoning. When he didn't die from stoning, the Emperor then ordered for him to be executed... Hmm nice man the Emperor Claudius...

When did he die?
Again, myth has it around 269 AD on February 14.

Where is he buried?
Apparently, his body was then buried in a hurry at a nearby cemetery before his disciples later came and carried him home.

Where are his remains now?
The poor chap seems to be scattered all over the place!
  • A skull believed to be his is held in glass in Rome. But parts of his skull could also be in Chelmno in Poland.
  • His shoulder blade is in the Czech Republic and is now on permanent display in the Church of Saints Paul and Peter in Prague.
  • There are also said to be remains in Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome, Roquemaure, France and Dublin, Ireland.

When was he made a Saint?
In 496 AD, February 14 was declared in the name of St Valentine by Pope Gelasius. It was originally part of the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a feast day dedicated to St Valentine.

It remained a Church holiday until 1969, when Pope Paul VI took it from the calendar because of uncertainty of the facts.

Just the one Valentine?
Little is really known of the real man (or men) behind the myth. What is known is that at least two men by the name of Valentine (Valentinus) were known in Italy and died in the late 3rd century and a third Valentine was located in North Africa around the same time. The two Italians were buried along Via Flaminia.

Courtesy of Angel Food Bakery, Brighton

Traditions and Tales of Valentine's Day

  • The first man an unmarried woman saw on February 14 would be her future husband (let us pray it's not the smelly old tramp that rummages through the bins on your street!)
  • If the names of all a girl's suitors were written on paper and wrapped in clay and the clay put into water, the piece that rose to the surface first would contain the name of her husband-to-be.
  • If a woman saw a Robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a Sailor.
  • If a woman saw a Sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy.
  • If a woman saw a Goldfinch, she would marry a rich person.
  • During the Middle Ages it was believed that birds chose their partners in the middle of February. Thus the day was dedicated to love and people observed it by writing love letters and sending small gifts to their beloved.

Did you know?

  • The first reference in print to Valentine's Day is found in Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Parlement of Foules" (The Parliament of Fowls) circa 1381.
  • The earliest known romantic Valentine verse was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife in the 15th Century while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
  • In 1537 King Henry VIII declared St Valentine's day an official holiday. It was another century and a half before religious devotional cards became non-religious cards to reflect the change in the holiday.
  • On Lupercalia (a Roman festival for purification and fertility) a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year. Understandably, this was not favoured by Pope Gelasius so he...
  • Changed the lottery where women would write love letters and stick them in a large urn. The men would pick a letter from the urn and for the next year, pursue the woman who wrote the chosen letter. (Bet the men were gutted!) This custom lasted until the 1700s when people decided their beloveds should be chosen by sight, not luck.

Whether you are coupled up or single, however you spend your day, Happy Valentine's Day!

And if you are single, why not use Valentine's Day as a reminder to spend the rest of the year letting people know how much they mean to you. That will show your coupled friends that love is actually everywhere... X

"Be my funny Valentine..."  Not politically correct but I thought this vintage Valentine card endearing!