The Evolution of Valentines Day


Valentine’s Day is now the busiest day in the year for florists.

Valentines Day is celebrated every February 14th by millions of couples and some hopeful singles. It has become the busiest day for florists as long stem red roses are the stand out gift of choice. The secret admirer card has taken a back seat due to rapid advances in technology. People now tend to send valentines through social networking sites or by emailing e cards. Other common gift choices include chocolates, diamonds, lingerie, and anything with a floral scent or in the shape of a heart. Valentine’s Day has become such a huge commercial success that many people wonder how it all began.

Greek Gods and Pagan Rituals

In the Ancient Athenian calendar mid January to mid February was the period dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera. In Ancient Rome mid February was a time to celebrate fertility. Lupercalia was a Roman festival connected to a cleansing of the city and fertility. Also a festival called Juno Februa, associated with the god Pan, was celebrated at this time. Juno Februa was a Neo Pagan festival involving fertility and sex. Some sources note the practice of ritual animal sacrifice and slapping of women with parts of the animals skin for the purpose of fertility. All these festivals were abolished by Christianity.

Christian Martyrs

Records show that there were many Christian martyrs named Valentine. There were two Roman Valentines honoured on February 14th as martyrs. There were also other Saints named Valentine who became martyrs and they were also connected to the same date in February. There is no evidence however that there was any romantic notion or ideal behind the annual honouring of these Saints.

Valentine Legend

There is a medieval legend about Saint Valentine and Claudius II, a Roman Emperor. Claudius II desired a more efficient army and thought that young men’s’ desire for women was effecting their efficiency as soldiers. He banned marriage in an attempt to create a superior army. It was said that Saint Valentine did not agree with this and would marry young couples in secret. When Claudius found this out he imprisoned Saint Valentine and sentenced him to death.

Couples would visit the Saint in jail before his death, passing him roses in thanks for his support of their love. The Jailers daughter and Saint Valentine apparently developed affection for one another and the day of his execution the Saint passed her a note that read, “From your Valentine”. Legend has it that this note was the first ever Valentines.

The Modern Valentine

In the late 17th century England printers began producing Valentine cards with romantic verse. In 18th century it became popular to write personal letters and send them to lovers. Also this is around the time when the anonymous Valentine letters became popular. This may have been a reaction to the general restraint required by Victorian England. An anonymous letter may have seemed like a safe way to test the social boundaries. By the 19th Century Valentine cards were being made in factories as the demand for them was so great. During the 20th century mass production of Valentine cards and the subsequent commercialism of Valentine’s Day has led to various forms of cross promotion. Now we associate Valentines presents with roses, chocolates, expensive jewellery and even diamonds.