Whether you look forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day each year or not, it’s hard to ignore the foil-wrapped chocolate hearts and red roses popping up at our local supermarkets around about this time of the month.
We get the gist – it’s all meant to be about love. But before it became all about visiting card shops and florists, why did we start celebrating it in the first place?
Something you might already know is that there was a Saint named Valentine – and that Valentine’s Day is also called Saint Valentine’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Valentine.
The only thing we can be relatively sure about with Saint Valentine is that he was commemorated as a saint on February 14 in around 270 AD, but there are many stories and legends about him and why we celebrate the this with love.
One popular legend is that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers that were forbidden from marrying, and helped Christians persecuted by the Romans.
The story goes that while he was in prison, he supposedly healed a jailer’s daughter and wrote a farewell letter to her signed ‘your Valentine’.
Either way, we have 14th century writer Geoffrey Chaucer to thank for giving Valentine’s Day the romantic edge it has today. A poem he wrote – called ‘Parlement of Foules’ – has the first known reference to St Valentine’s being a special day for lovers.
And importantly, when we think of classical romance – you know, knights and damsels, everything we see in films from Disney cartoons to A Knight’s Tale – that’s the romance of Chaucer’s day.
And let’s just say that Chaucer was a big fan of all that, and he’s the main man responsible for our modern obsession with it still today.
It looks like the rest is history; years after that poem, the first actual written Valentine appears to have been made a bit later around the 15th century – before Shakespeare (of course) mentioned it in Hamlet and other writers got in on the action.
Then fast forward to the 19th century, and it became more like the Valentine’s Day we know today. Sending Valentine’s notes to lovers became big business, with people using ribbons and lace to decorate their cards and the practice becoming so popular that they began to be produced in factories.
Because for traditionally prudish Victorians, the chance to send flirty (or even sexy) messages to lovers anonymously wasn’t an opportunity to miss.
So as Valentine’s became bigger for businesses and people came up with more creative gift ideas to sell, that takes us right up to today – where you can pop over to somewhere like Paperchase and buy anything from Valentine’s Day fairy lights to heart-studded mason jars.
Oh, and of course, red roses.
Why do you think we celebrate Valentine’s Day? Tweet us at @YahooStyleUK.