03 Feb 2017

The Valentine’s Day History Nobody Talks About

Ordering Valentine’s Day flowers is a time-honoured tradition. It provides a simple way to show someone you care, convey emotions, or leave them absolutely astounded. But, that begs the questions, “What is this Valentine’s Day business anyway, and why do we do anything at all?”

The Original Valentine’s Day was a Fertility Festival

Like many of today’s holidays, the original was part of a Pagan festival. Initially called Februa by the Romans, and celebrated on the 13-15 of February, then later evolving into the Feast of Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15, the overall goal of the event was to purify the city. The Feast of Lupercalia, however, also involved fertility rituals. Sparing the gory details, men would don goatskins and run through the town. Women who wanted to become pregnant, as well as pregnant women who wanted to be granted an easy labour, would stand in their way and present their hands, to be whipped by goatskin straps as the men passed. There are actually references to Lupercalia in Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar.”

 

“Forget not, in your speed, Antonius, o touch Calpurnia; for our elders say, the barren touched in this holy chase, shake off their sterile curse,” Caesar cautions Mark Antony. During the funeral speech after Caesar’s assassination, Antony refers to the celebration by name: “You all did see that on the Lupercal, I thrice presented him a kingly crown…”

In addition to the street whippings, the Feast of Lupercalia, also involved a matchmaking ceremony of sorts. Men would draw a woman’s name from a jar and the two would be paired up for the duration of the event, or perhaps longer if they wished.

Modern Valentine’s Day Celebrates an Outlaw

Not surprisingly, Pope Gelasius I took issue with this and decided to squash the debauchery of the Feast of Lupercalia, and created a new holiday in 496 AD. The new holiday would be called Valentine’s Day, after a martyr who sacrificed his life for love, as legend has it. There are actually a few Saint Valentines, so it’s difficult to pinpoint which one the story pays homage to, but the general story is that Claudius Gothicus, also known as Emperor Claudius I of Rome, who reigned from September 268 to January 270, had a difficult time getting soldiers to fight for him. Instead, they wanted to stay home with their families and wives. The emperor, not wanting to stall out his inquisitions, banned marriage in order to encourage more men to sign up to fight. Valentine was not ok with this, so he continued to perform marriage services in secret. Only, they weren’t as secret as Valentine had hoped and the emperor ordered him to be executed. While imprisoned, Valentine either befriended or romanced the jailer’s daughter. Just prior to his execution, he sent her a letter, signed “Your Valentine.”

Chaucer and Shakespeare Made it Romantic

Up until the middle ages, Valentine’s Day had gone from a drunken melee to honouring a saint; a fairly drastic change, but it still did not come close to representing what we have today. We can thank Geoffrey Chaucer for his late 1370s poem, “The Parliament of Fowls,” for giving it a wee bit of romance.

 

…For this was on seynt Valentynes day,

Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make…

 

Shakespeare also mentions the holiday in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Hamlet,” which are estimated to have been written in the 1590s.

 

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,

All in the morning betime,

And I a maid at your window,

To be your Valentine.

 

Once Shakespeare got a hold of the romantic concept of Valentine’s Day, the idea really caught fire. People throughout Europe began handcrafting Valentines at home to give to their beloved, followed shortly by little trinkets of their affection. By the time Hallmark started mass-producing Valentine’s cards in 1913, the fate of the day was set in stone.

Looking for Valentine’s Day Flowers?

If you’re looking for an “authentic” Valentine’s Day gift, you’re out of luck. We do not carry straps made of goatskin. That’s probably for the best, though, as it’s doubtful it’ll win you any points with your beloved that way these days. On the bright side, we do, however, offer stunning hand-tied bouquets, certain to take her breath away (in a good way), as well as same-day flower delivery in Dublin and next-day delivery throughout Ireland. View our Valentine’s Day flowers now, and rest assured a lavish gift will arrive in time for the holiday.

 

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