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Valentine's Day
Holidays Main
Valentines Day  
VALENTINE'S DAY

February 14

Significance:
A day to show your loved ones that you love them.

Traditions:
Valentine Cards
Flowers (especially roses)
Chocolates or Candy
Love Letters
Teddy Bears
Poetry
Cupid
Going on a valentine date.


Above: "Valentine Bear" by Vanessa Fessler
~ Valentine's Day History ~


The Origin of Valentine's Day


The origin of the most romantic holiday of the year is based in some controversy over three different Roman tales of romance and mystique. These stories and their traditions were meshed in the creative mind of Geoffrey Chaucer whose references are the first record of what is now known as Valentine’s Day. It is worthwhile to note that there is likely no single tale that adequately explains Valentine’s Day as it is known today, but rather, the combination of three Roman tales and the romantic ideas of Geoffrey Chaucer.


The Roman Stories


The first story suggests that the Roman Emperor Claudius II deprived his soldiers of the right to be married, believing that soldiers who married were weak and unreliable. Valentine, a Catholic Bishop, defied the decree of Claudius II and helped soldiers to marry in secret ceremonies. Claudius ultimately discovered the actions of Valentine and had him put to death on February 14, 270 B.C. From this story, a belief in sacrifice for love is demonstrated.

The second story contains a degree of myth and mystique. It depicts Valentine in prison as he awaits his execution for his defiance of Claudius II. During Valentine’s incarceration, he fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter. The great piety and faith of Valentine brought a miraculous healing of his love from her blindness, and she was able to read a note that he had written for her before he died which read, “From your Valentine.” This story added legend to Valentine’s death. It also added the element of love notes to the valentine theme, and what we know today as Valentine’s cards.

A third story describes how Roman sons and daughters were kept separated in youth. Roman boys and girls were kept apart except when in their teenage years, they were allowed to participate in the festival of Lupercalia. At this event, names of teenage girls were written on small pieces of paper that were then offered to the boys who drew the names in a lottery fashion. Each boy would then be paired with the girl whose name he had drawn for the duration of the festival. On some occasions this event would lead to love and eventually marriage for some. This story also contributed to the exchange of Valentine’s cards as is common today.

Geoffrey Chaucer was an English author and poet who lived from 1343 A.D. to 1400 A.D. Chaucer is most notably remembered for his book “the Canterbury Tales,” which was a collection of stories about a pilgrimage to the Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer also composed other works of poetry including “The Parliament of Fowles,” which is the first recorded mention of Valentines Day. In this work Chaucer made reference to the Roman stories and gave credit to Valentine for his devotion to the cause of love.

The combination of the Roman tales and Chaucer’s reference to them has given rise to Valentines Day as it is known today. Because Valentine was executed on the fourteenth of February, Valentine’s Day is also celebrated on this day to commemorate the bold and romantic tales of Saint Valentine.


Tradition Continues

From the days of Chaucer, Valentines Day has evolved into a romantic holiday that still embodies the traditions of the old Roman stories. It is a day to place emphasis on love and perhaps to even make some kind of sacrifice for love (generally the sacrifice of money on flowers and candy). The tradition of exchanging Valentine’s cards, love notes, and poetry continues to this day.  In 18th century England, it was common for boys and girls to draw names from a box to see who their Valentine would be. This followed the Roman tradition of the festival of Lupercalia.


Cupid

Another symbol of Roman mythology that has also come to be associated with Valentine’s Day is Cupid. The Romans believed in Cupid as the god of love. Cupid was represented as a baby or child with wings, armed with a bow and arrow. The Romans portrayed cupid as a god interested in spreading love, but who also possessed a tricky and playful character. The cupid of today is represented with the soul intent of inflicting love upon people with his magical “arrows of love.” It is said that anyone struck by Cupid’s arrow will fall in love with the next person they see.


Interesting Valentine's Day Customs and Traditions


Some interesting customs and traditions emerged in relation to Valentine’s Day throughout the world between Chaucer’s day and the present. Some of them are listed as follows:

Message in a Clayball
Girls would sometimes write boys names on small pieces of paper. They covered the paper with clay and then dropped the clay balls into water. Eventually the clay would wash free of the paper, and the small note would rise to the surface. The first name to rise to the top would be considered her valentine.
Rose Petal Slap
An odd tradition of some girls was to hold a rose petal in their hand and to slap their forehead with it. If the rose petal cracked it was considered a sign that the boy she loved, loved her too.
Keep the Snow Out
In England it was believed to be a bad omen for young women if they tracked snow into the house before February 14. This would apparently make it unlikely for them to meet their valentine at any time soon.
Leaves on Your Pillow
Young ladies used to believe that if they pinned bay leaves to their pillow on the night before Valentine’s Day, they would have dreams about their valentine on that night.
First Man of the Day
Another tradition for some unmarried ladies was to wake up before dawn, and watch out the window for the first man who passed by. This man would be or resemble the man they would marry (although it was likely quite disappointing at times).
Guess Who
Some crafty boys would send their valentines love letters that were signed only with dots that represented the number of letters in the boy’s name. It was then up to the girl to guess who her valentine was.
Heart on Your Sleeve
Similar to the old Roman tradition, boys used to write girls names on papers and put them in a jar. The boy would then draw one of the girl’s names and wear that name on his sleeve.
Loves Me, Loves Me Not
Girls used to pick a daisy and pluck the petals from the flower one at a time saying, “loves me, loves me not.” If the last words spoken as the final petal was plucked were “loves me” then her valentine was believed to be in love with her.

These and other interesting customs developed from the romantic era of Chaucer into the traditions that are practiced today.


Current Valentines Day Symbols and Traditions

The traditions of Valentine’s Day have evolved through time into what we know today. Here are some of the common symbols and traditions of Valentine’s Day now:

Valentine’s Day Cards
Exchanging Valentine’s Day cards with a valentine, and with family and friends.
Flowers
Roses are the “standard” flower of Valentine’s Day, but bouquets of other flowers can also dazzle a valentine.
Chocolate and Candy
This is the evil double-edged sword. Your valentine will love you for getting it, but hate you for calorie count.
Love Letters
These are for the more daring and devoted romantic valentines, but with the right touch, they can truly sweep a valentine off of their feet.
Teddy Bears
Teddy bears are cute. They will definitely satisfy the “forget me not” issues of a valentine.
Poetry
This is a tradition to approach with caution. Chaucer encouraged poetry in a big way, but if you seek a valentine by this method, you better make it very good.
Cupid
Cupid is a symbol of Valentine’s Day. Once you are struck by his arrows, there is no escape from love.
Going on a Valentine Date
This is a must. Get out and do something with your valentine!

 

           
Valentine’s Day As We Know It

In current times Valentine’s Day has become a day to celebrate romantic love and love for friends and family. Traditions from the Roman stories continue to be practiced to this day, but with a broader meaning. Love notes and Valentine’s Day cards continue to be shared by sweethearts, but it is also common for children at school to share Valentine’s Day cards and candy with friends.

Valentine’s Day has changed somewhat in that it has become a day when people show those they care about a little more love than they usually do. Although there are some who despise Valentine’s Day for its commercialism, it can be argued that there is greater good in the opportunity to express affection for loved ones. Whether you express your love through dollar signs or simply by loving words, the point is that you express your love. The true importance of Valentine’s Day is to let your loved ones know you care.

 

Smore FudgeTry our Valentine's Day treat: A Family Fun Shop original recipe
"Smore Fudge"
"Smore Fudge" is a positively delectable indulgence of melt in your mouth chocolate.


Try our Valentine's Day Word Puzzles

Download our free "Valentine's Day Crossword Puzzle" (78 KB)

Download our "Valentine's Day Word Search" (77 KB)



We also have gifts for your valentine at our gifts section.

 

- Article by Wes Fessler

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Sources:

1. Librivox,  “The Canterbury Tales”
http://librivox.org/the-canterbury-tales-by-geoffrey-chaucer/  [Accessed 28 June 2007]

2. Holiday Central, “Valentine Customs”
http://home.comcast.net/~rcolliton/Valentine/Customs.html  [Accessed 28 June 2007]

3. Orenoque  “Popular Traditions Associated with Valentines Day”
http://www.orenoque.com/valentine-popular-customs/  [Accessed 28 June 2007]

4. infostarbase.com  “Valentines Day – Cupid”
http://www.infostarbase.com/holidays/valentine/cupid.html [Accessed 28 June 2007]

5. Wikipedia,  “Cupid”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cupid [Accessed 28 June 2007]

6. Gardiner, Sarah,  “Valentines Day”
http://clearlyexplained.com/culture/celebrations/valentines  [Accessed 28 June 2007]

7. Brunner, Borgna,  “Valentine’s Day History”
http://www.infoplease.com/spot/valentinesdayhistory.html  [Acessed 28 June 2007]

8. Popular Issues,  “History of Valentines Day – The Man Valentine”
http://www.allaboutpopularissues.org/history-of-valentines-day.htm 
[Accessed 28 June 2007]

9. Pictureframes.co.uk  “Valentine’s Day History”
http://www.pictureframes.co.uk/pages/saint_valentine.htm  [Accessed 28 June 2007]

10. 4homeschool.info,  “Valentines Day-February 14”
http://www.4homeschool.info/ValentinesDayMeaning.htm  [Accessed 28 June 2007]


 
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