Every February 14th in many places around the world, gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. Mystery and confusion surrounds who actually is St Valentine. Three different saints named Valentine are recognised by the Catholic Church and all these saints are martyred on this particular day.
One of the legends inferred that Valentine was a priest. This priest served Rome during the third century and at this time, Emperor Claudius II decided that unmarried soldiers were preferable than married ones. He outlawed marriage for young soldiers and Valentine realised this injustice and performed marriages in secret for the young lovers. When Claudius discovered these secret marriages, Valentine was put to death.
Another legend suggests that the first ‘Valentine’ greeting was sent by a ‘Valentine’. When a certain Valentine was in prison, he fell in love with a girl who was the daughter of the jailor and often visited Valentine during his days of confinement. He wrote a letter to her just before his death and signed it ‘From your Valentine.’
Valentine’s Day began to be celebrated around the seventeenth century in Great Britain and friends and lovers exchanged gifts as tokens of their love.
A single perfect red rose is the preferred choice for giving on Valentine’s Day. The red rose was said to be the favourite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, as the colour red stands for strong romantic feelings making the red rose the flower of love.
Cupid is the symbol we identify with Valentine’s Day. Cupid was associated with Valentine’s Day because he was the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty. Cupid often appears holding a bow and arrow as he is believed to use these magical arrows to awaken feelings of love.
Verona, the Italian city where Shakespeare’s play lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters every year sent to Juliet on Valentine’s Day.
In the Middle Ages young men and women drew the names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would wear this name pinned on their sleeves for one week. This was done so that it became easy for other people to know their true feelings. This was known as “to wear your heart on your sleeve.”
The heart has been the most common figure of romantic love over the decades. Ancient cultures believed the human soul lived in the heart. The heart may be linked with love because the Ancient Greeks believed it was the goal of Eros, known as Cupid to the Romans. Anyone shot in the heart by one of Cupid’s arrows would fall hopelessly in love.
Doves are also part of the Valentine tradition. These birds are symbols of love and loyalty because they mate for life.
A love knot is a symbol of undying love, as its twisting loops have no beginnings or ends. In olden times, they were made of ribbon or drawn on paper to prove eternal love.