A little history of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is one week away! While this love-struck date is known for cards, flowers, and chocolates galore, it was once about pagan rituals, martyrdom, and a little romance. Then, it became all about selling cards.
Valentine’s Day is a fixed date in February that has its roots in an ancient-Roman pastoral festival called Lupercalia. The festival was held every year on February 15, and remained wildly popular well into the 5th century AD.
Lupercalia was a fertility festival celebrated in the city of Rome. Luperci priests would gather at a sacred cave and sacrifice a goat (for fertility) and a dog (for purification). They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into sacrificial blood, and take to the streets gently slapping women and crop fields with the goat hide. Women of the city welcomed this, as it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Match making was also included. Bachelors of the city were paired with women after choosing their names from a jar. It’s unclear whether these matches lasted beyond the festivities.
Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity, but the Catholic church didn’t care much for all the blood and nakedness that happened at the pagan event. At the end of the 5th Century AD, Pope Gelasius created a new holiday right on top of the un-Christian one, declaring February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day in honour of two Christian martyrs named Valentine—Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. Both men happened to be executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus II on February 14 in two different years during the 3rd century AD.
There is also the tale that Saint Valentine was a Roman priest who performed weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry. He wore a ring with a Cupid on it so that soldiers could recognize him. He also handed out paper hearts to remind Christians of their love for God. Because of this legend, St. Valentine became known as the patron saint of love. The Saint Valentine prayer asks Saint Valentine to connect lovers together, and through that connection the couple remembers their devotion to God.
While the Saint Valentine story set the groundwork for establishing the day as a holiday for romantic love, what truly solidified it was medieval author Geoffrey Chaucer. In 1381, Chaucer wrote a poem for the first anniversary of King Richard II’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia. Because of this poem, historians consider him to be the origin of celebrating Valentine’s Day romantically. There is also the famous love poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. He sent the poem to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Now that’s romance!
The notion of Valentine’s Day started gaining popularly in Europe during the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. In the mid-19th century, interest in hand-made valentines grew in America—and then Canada. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland started selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. She is known as the “Mother of the Valentine” for her elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colourful pictures. In 1913, Hallmark Cards offered pre-made valentines for people to express their emotions, and started mass producing them in 1916. The day of romance was born anew as a commercial holiday.
Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world.
No matter how you’re celebrating, Valentine’s Day can be as lovey-dovey or low-key as you want it to be. If you’re looking for a place to wine and dine your sweetheart, call us at 250.897.0081 to make a reservation.
On February 14, we are serving a special menu from 5pm until closing.