by Shanice Miranda, Cora Health
When the 14th of February comes around, we are all ready with our love letters and bouquets, headed for our elegant dinner dates. Have any of us stopped for a second to ponder over the origins of this holiday dedicated to the celebration of romance? It seems like there might be more to the story than meets the eye, perhaps even having sinister undertones.
The following are some titillating facts to stimulate your brain this coming Valentine’s day:
1. Valentine’s Day Has its Roots in Pagan Traditions
Going back to the 6th century B.C., a yearly occurrence on the 15th of February, called ‘Lupercalia’ marked the streets of ancient Rome. Priests sacrificed animals in a bloody scene and used their skins to whip women, after which they were paired with a man for a year. (Glad that’s over with)
2. St. Valentine’s True Identity
The fertility feast was overshadowed by the feast of St. Valentine, who was sentenced to death by the Roman Emperor Claudius II for going against his orders and marrying young couples. The real St. Valentine’s identity is unknown as there are two possible people this name could be attributed to, including a priest in the 3rd century A.D.
3. Cupid was a Greek God
The sweet little cherub with his trusty bow and arrow is much more than just a symbol of love. In fact, that’s not even his real name- The God of love denoted in Greek mythology was the immortal Eros, who wielded his golden arrow to make people fall head over heels for each other and his lead arrow to turn them against one another. It was only in the 4th century B.C. that he was welcomed as ‘Cupid’.
4. The First Valentine was Written in Prison
In the 15th century, the very first Valentine was composed from a not so romantic setting- a prison. Charles, the Duke of Orleans, wrote to his second wife after being captured at the age of 21. Unfortunately, he would never get to see her reaction to his sweet poem – Oh tragic love!
5. It Became Official Only in the 1300s
Gleasius, the Roman Pope, officially declared the 14th of February as ‘Valentine’s Day’. However, only during the Middle ages was it widely accepted as a celebration of all things endearing- thanks to the popular belief that the mating season of birds coincided with the same date.
6. Giving flowers on Valentine’s Day Dates Back to a King of Sweden
On a trip to Persia, King Charles II was introduced to the art of giving flowers to show someone how you feel without using words. Yellow carnations meant you had disappointed them, purple hyacinths were used to convey regret, and red roses, due to their association with the Goddess of love- Aphrodite were accepted as a representation of love.
7. The First Heart-Shaped Box of Chocolates
We all appreciate a hearty box of chocolate, but where did it start? In the 19th century, Richard Cadbury- son of Cadbury founder John Cadbury, took up the opportunity to market his brand of chocolates for this beloved holiday.
8. How Many Couples Get Engaged on Valentine’s Day?
Believe it or not, February 14th is a day that is popular amongst those who wish to get down on one knee and ask for their lover’s hand in marriage. Around 6 million couples get engaged on this festive day. (heart eyes)
9. The Origins of the Heart Shape
Human hearts look nothing like what is traditionally depicted, so where does this symbol of love actually come from? - the answer is a plant named ‘Silphium’. Although it is sadly now extinct, it was once used for several purposes, including as a contraceptive. For this reason, as well as anatomical ones, the plant’s shape was morphed to form the modern heart.
10. How Much Do We Spend on Presents?
According to the National Retail Federation, on Valentine’s day, people spend the most amount of money on one thing – jewellery. Together, approximately 5.8 billion dollars was spent on jewellery in 2020. Wow, that’s a lot of bling!
11. Celebrations Across the World
Several countries in Latin America recognize this day as one of celebrating not only love but also friendship. It is taken up as a chance to show those closest to you how much they mean to you. The Japanese tradition calls for women to gift confections to their male counterparts, who repay the favour a month later.
It is so interesting to see how this festive day has evolved to what it is today. However you choose to celebrate with your partner, always keep in mind the true purpose of February 14th – to express gratitude for the people around you that make this life worthwhile.
Have a beautiful Valentine's day, ya'll!