Friday, January 21, 2011

A Brief History of Valentines Day

The number and variety of stories and tales concerning the origin of Valentine's Day will make your head spin. Some say it began as a feast or festival in ancient Rome. Others say it's based on one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine. The idea of romantic love being associated with Valentines Day came much later, possibly from Chaucer in the era of courtly love. Here are a few of the more interesting tales.

Lupercalia was an ancient festival near the city of Rome. It was originally held by shipyards to honor Lupercus, a fertility god around February 13-15. This festival lasted well into Christian times before it was abolished by Pope Gelasius near the end of the 5th century.

During the reign of Claudius II, Emperor of Rome, several wars were being fought. Many men however failed to join the army. Claudius felt their wives and families were the cause, so he banned both marriages and engagements. At the time, a priest named Valentines married couples in spite of the ban. When Valentine was discovered he was put to death, and afterwards, named a Saint.

The oldest existing valentine was written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife. The poem was written to his wife while he was in prison in the Tower of London, following capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The poem still exists and is housed in the British Library in London.

Love and Friendship day is celebrated in much of South America. While similar to the Western Valentine's Day, it often includes acts of appreciation for friends. Boyfriends/Girlfriends day is celebrated in Brazil. Couples exchange gifts, flowers and chocolates on June 12th.

Valentinsdag is Valentine's Day in Norway and Denmark is celebrated on February 14th. The tradition is less commercial and more subdued than in the West. People in these countries focus on having a romantic dinner with their partner or sending a card or a red rose to their loved one.

Valentine's Day in Iran is still celebrated in spite of some government restrictions. The celebration is called Sepandarmazgan and is celebrated on February 17th. The tradition is becoming more common among younger Iranian girls and boys.

In the late 1840's the first mass-produced Valentine cards were produced by Esther Howland in Worchester, Massachusetts. Esther's cards, made of embossed paper lace were inspired by English valentines. By the early 1850's, one writer claimed that St. Valentine's Day had become a national holiday.

The second half of the 20th century witnessed an expansion of the Valentine's Day traditions. Gifts, primarily cards, expanded to flowers and candy. Popular Valentine's Day gifts now include roses and chocolates, often in a red heart-shaped box.

About the Author:

A leading Tampa florist, A-Bow-K Florist and Gifts has been delivering Valentines Day flowers and gifts to Tampa and the surrounding area for 25 successful years.

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