Over the next few days, we’ll be bringing you some Saint Valentine’s Day posts in the spirit of love and creativity!
Before we start, let’s delve into a little bit of the history behind the holiday. There are actually three known Saint Valentines, all of which were said to have been martyred (more about that here), along with several different versions of the holiday itself. My favourite version of this is said to be an embellishment, I’ve always liked this version nevertheless, so here ’tis, courtesy of Wikipedia, with a few little asides from me in [parentheses]:
“Saint Valentine performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. However, this supposed marriage ban was never issued, as in fact Claudius II told his soldiers to take two or three women for themselves after his victory over the Goths.” [there’s no mention of these liaisons culminating in marriage, however.][If you’re interested in learning more about the battles between the Romans and the Goths, there is also an excellent docudrama called ‘Barbarians Rising’, which goes into more detail. In terms of cinematography and costume it is on par with shows like ‘Vikings’, and ‘Game of Thrones’, and would’ve also made for several seasons of a terrific full-blown historical drama series.]
“According to legend, in order “to remind these men of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment”, giving them to these soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on St. Valentine’s Day.
Saint Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring, customarily worn on the hands of Christian bishops with an image of Cupid engraved in it, a recognizable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask him to perform marriage for them. Probably due to the association with Saint Valentine, amethyst has become the birthstone of February, which is thought to attract love.”
The earliest Valentines date back to the 15th century, and one thing I love about these is that they’re predominately in the form of letters, poetry, and handmade cards, for example, the beautiful handmade cards from the Victorian era.
Where do Valentine’s Day cards fit into this history? You could suppose that the pieces of heart cut from parchment by Saint Valentine might be the earliest version of a Valentine’s Day card, but the idea of giving the cards under the notion of romantic love is said to have been commercialised in the USA by the ‘Mother of the Valentine’, Esther Howland, who was responsible for the first mass-production of lace-embossed Valentine’s Day greeting cards back in 1850.
I personally like the idea of handwritten letters, poems, and handmade Valentines, they have a lovely sentiment to them that isn’t as well captured in mass-produced cards.
The giving of roses dates back to the Victorian era, and is largely due to what is known as ‘floriography’ – the concept that every flower has its own meaning. If you’ve ever seen a flower dictionary from this period, that’s what we’re talking about. The Victorians were said to be rather prudish when it came to expressing emotions, so a bouquet of flowers could be put together in such a way, that their combined meanings detailed the intent and the emotion behind them. Roses were said to be an expression of ‘passionate, or true love’, and this has persisted through to the present day, making them an ideal choice for Valentine’s Day flowers.
Chocolates and Valentine’s day became intertwined in 1861, when Richard Cadbury (of Cadbury chocolates fame), began designing and decorating heart-shaped boxes of their chocolates, with pictures of cupids and rosebuds. Cadbury wanted to find a way to turn the cocoa butter from their extraction process into an edible product, which eventually became what we know as Cadbury chocolate. Their production of beautiful chocolate boxes full of ‘eating chocolate’ took off, as people became enamoured by the packaging and began keeping the boxes as keepsakes once they’d finished eating the chocolate.
Speaking of chocolate, tomorrow we’ll be featuring a great recipe for Valentine’s Day cupcakes! Stay tuned!