What is Valentine’s Day? St Valentine’s Day is an annual festival to celebrate romantic love, friendship and admiration.
Every year on 14 February people celebrate this day by sending messages of love and affection to partners, family and friends. Couples send Valentine’s Day cards and flowers, give each other romantic t-shirts, bracelets and necklaces and spend special time together to honour their love for each other.
The Early History of Valentine's Day
At the time of Valentine's life, many Romans were converting to Christianity, but the Emperor Claudius II was a pagan and created strict laws about what Christians were allowed to do. Claudius believed that Roman soldiers should be completely devoted to Rome and therefore passed a law preventing them from marrying. St Valentine began to marry these soldiers in secret Christian ceremonies and this was the beginning of his reputation for believing in the importance of love.
Eventually, Valentine was found out and jailed for his crimes against Claudius. While imprisoned, Valentine cared for his fellow prisoners and also his jailor's blind daughter. Legend has it that Valentine cured the girl's blindness and that his final act before being executed was to write her a love message signed ‘from your Valentine'. Valentine was executed on 14 February in the year 270.
How did Valentine's Day develop?
The poet Chaucer in the Middle Ages was the first to link St Valentine with romantic love. This was the beginning of the tradition of courtly love, a ritual of expressing love and admiration, usually in secret. This custom spread throughout Europe and stories grew about a High Court of Love where female judges would rule on issues related to love on 14 February each year. Historians believe that these meetings were in fact gatherings where people read love poetry and played games of flirtation.
Valentine's Day Symbols
Saint Valentine's Day cards were decorated with pictures of cupid, hearts and flowers and trimmed with lace and ribbon. These images are still used today to symbolise love and are recognised all over the world.
What is Valentine's Day in Contemporary Times?
Valentine's Day is most commonly associated with romantic love, with millions of Valentine's Day cards being exchanged each year. Gifts of flowers or a single red rose are sent with romantic messages to loved ones and couples spend special time together.
Many couples choose to celebrate Valentine's Day with dinner, a picnic or special home-cooked meal. Many restaurants offer Valentine's Day dinner promotions and food is often presented with symbols of love like hearts and flowers. Another popular Valentine's Day activity is to indulge in a luxury hotel stay in a beautiful location, allowing a couple to get away from it all and enjoy some quality time together. Marriage proposals are also popular on Valentine's Day, and it is often chosen as the perfect day to express their love and commitment. Some marriage proposals are delivered very creatively, such as after climbing to the top of a mountain, or posting a message on a billboard. Whatever the method, marriage proposals made on Valentine's Day are generally romantic and memorable.