The First Valentine’s Day…. by Robin Kaye

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and here I am, hunkered down at Starbucks, writing my blog and wondering why they chose a bleak month like February to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I concluded that in the days of old, there was little to do during the short winter days, so why not celebrate love, cuddle up with your Valentine, and enjoy? Imagine my surprise when, after a few minutes of research, I discovered I was wrong. Here’s what I found out about Valentine’s Day…

 Valentine’s Day began as a Pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia (February 15th), which involved nudity and whipping (and no, I’m not talking about whipped cream). During the festival, the boys whipped the girls’ bottoms to stimulate fertility— though I’m not sure whether it was the boy’s fertility or the girl’s they were aiming to stimulate.

 In 197 AD a Christian known as Valentine of Terni was martyred and beheaded on February 14th by a Roman Prefect with the oxymoronic name of Placid Furius. This was the first Valentine reference I came across in my research that corresponded to the date of February 14th, but he was not the last. It happened again in 289 AD. This Valentine of Rome was jailed for aiding prisoners. While in jail, he converted his jailer and healed the jailer’s blind daughter’s sight. He supposedly fell in love with the girl and sent her notes signed “From your Valentine” which was, I suppose, the first Valentine’s Day card. Ironically, he is said to have died on February 14th. I believe it was under Pope Claudius that he became a Saint. However, it wasn’t until 496 AD, that Pope Gelasius made a bid for peace with the still popular pagans and their festival of Lupercalia, by declaring February 14th to be St. Valentine’s Day—a Christian feast day.

 The first reference of Valentine’s Day that was linked to romantic love wasn’t until 1382 in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls. It was written to celebrate the engagement of England’s Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. Chaucer wrote “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day/When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate” but then since he was talking about mating birds, which doesn’t happen in February, this probably took place on May 2nd, the Saint’s Day in the Liturgical calendar. Still, the link between Valentine’s Day and romantic love was formed. Further cementing the correlation, in 1601, St. Valentine’s Day was mentioned by none other than Shakespeare in Ophelia’s lament in Hamlet “Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day,/All in the morning betime,/And I a maid at your window,/To be your Valentine.”

 So, you might ask where and when the tradition of Valentine’s Cards came into play. That one, as well as the whole romantic love connection can be blamed or attributed (depending on your point of view) to the English. In the mid 18th century, passing love-notes became popular in England. They were made of lace and paper and The Young Man’s Valentine Writer was published. By the early 19th century, love-notes became so popular, factories began to mass produce them.

 In 1913, Hallmark Cards produced their first Valentine in the US. Since then, commercialization of the holiday continued and grew to include chocolate, flowers, cards, and diamonds. A few of my favorite things. Obviously, most men don’t take my husband’s view on the holiday. Last year, it’s estimated that Valentine’s Day sales generated $14.7 billion dollars in retail sales in the US alone—none of which was from my Domestic God. I never said the man was perfect, just close. He was nice enough to go out in the snow and take pictures for me, so although he’s not one for cards or gifts, he’s the most giving man I know every other day of the year. Still, a little chocolate and a diamond or two would be appreciated.

 May your Valentine’s Day be a memorable. I’m looking forward to cuddling up with my husband and kids and enjoying some quality time together. I’ve decided that I’m glad Valentine’s Day is in February. Can you think of a better way to brighten up an otherwise bleak and depressing month?

Tell us your Valentine’s Day plans, and one commenter will win the signed Grace Burrowes book of his or her choice. Everybody who comments is entered to win the NOOK (winner announced Feb 18).

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45 comments on “The First Valentine’s Day…. by Robin Kaye

    • And thank you for that interesting–and mildly perplexing–history on Valentine’s Day. I’m going to have to look up the Lupercalia… Surprised the paranormal crowd hasn’t made some hay with it, it being the festival of wolves.

  1. Our plans for Valentine’s Day include myHero coming home early, some steaks, some red wine, some chocolate covered strawberries, and some Barry White.

    ‘Nuff said.

    Interesting historical notes there. I’m glad I live in the age of Hallmark!

  2. Hi Pamela~

    Your Valentine’s day plans sound wonderful. I might just be a copy cat! My husband and I gave up giving each other cards years ago after the third or fourth time we bought each other the exact same card. We also have a bad habit of buying each other the same presents–it’s frustrating.

  3. After lighting a candle to Love, to my Beloved, with a pray for a new partner I’ll be reading a romance novel with my faithful feline guy in my lap while eating some dark chocolate. Debating between alcohol free champagne or cognac. Betting the cognac wins.

      • Shiraz is a household staple! One of my favorite predominantly Shiraz blends is the Aussie import “Bitch” done up in wonderful I Love Lucy pink and black, complete with a heart. They also do an effervescent red aka Bitch Bubbly. Most years they each taste far better than their sticker price would infer.

        Thank you Robin for the information on the Pagan origins of Valentine’s; that is one I didn’t know about the pagan faith…not will I advocate to revive! Wonder how it migrated from whips to Cupid’s arrows?

  4. Hi grace and robin, this valentine day I’m gonna go to watch the preview screening of titanic in 3D with my best friend. So excited because I love titanic so much n really wish to see the 3D version. Happy valentine to you guys 🙂

    • I didn’t know they were making Titanic in 3D. Sometimes I feel as if I live under a rock. I’ve got my head buried so far in the book I’m writing, I haven’t seen the news for days, and that’s the only TV I really allow myself to watch so I don’t see commercials either. I can’t wait to hear all about the movie!

  5. How could Valentine’s Day not include Chocolate? I really wish I’d remembered what day it was before I started on a new diet. Still, in my world, chocolate is it’s own food group…

  6. I think our Valentine’s Day will be low key, as hubby is still in recovery mode. So, I’ll bring home something nice for dinner, maybe include that lovely dark chocolate dessert I saw at the bakery. And you know, he DID seem pretty frisky this past weekend. hmmmmm…..

  7. I’m anti-commercialism and hate having companies dictate to me what I should and should not want on a particular day. That said, a certain someone got himself into hot water a while back and has been working on getting himself back on good standing, so a little something thoughtful tomorrow would not go amiss. At the very least, I imagine there will be some sheet tangling problems in my household. Oh, how the sheets must suffer for our pleasure… the poor, put-upon, oft-abused things.

    • Oh Anna, I do so love how you put that. Sheet tangling problems. That sounds perfect! Enjoy, and I hope he does something nice to get out of the proverbial dog house… It sounds as if sheet tangling will be required and encouraged.

  8. Thanks for the blog Ms. Kaye!
    It was nice to get a little history behind the holiday. Aren’t most of the holidays we celebrate pagan in origin? I’m glad whipping is no longer involved. I am a preschool teacher and a mother of two preschool aged children (2 & 4) so I just finished making valentines for my students and “helping” my children get theirs done for their classmates. I love this holiday. If nothing else I think it is wonderful to celebrate love and give someone a piece of chocolate. My students and my children’s classmates are all getting a homemade valentine and a kiss (chocolate of course). I did cheat a little and buy stickers but what two to four year old doesn’t love stickers?
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • Allison~ I loved making Valentine’s with my kids. I might just run out and get some Valentine making materials on my way home. They’re teenagers now, but it would be fun to sit down with them after dinner tonight and make homemade Valentines. It’s been a while since we’ve done that together.

  9. Hmm, dark chocolate and Shiraz. Gotta try that. So if we add up all the Domestic Gods like yours and mine that don’t buy jewelry, chocolate or roses, think how commercial this holiday WOULD be!

    I’m baking the man a dark chocolate cake. LOL, we’ve haven’t picked the same card for each other but he has given me the same card two years in a row! He said, “Well, you know I mean it.” Happy Valentine’s ladies.

    • Marcella – What can I say, it’s an awesome combination. DH did try to make reservations at our favorite restaurant, unfortunately, they were all booked up. He’s going to bring me there anyway and see if we can get a table. The owner loves me so I’m not to worried and it beats the hell out of cooking.

  10. haha Valentines Day plans are pretty simple here as well. Ok, my husband will usually get me a card and candy. So he contributes to that $14 billion! 🙂 And he is generally a very sweet, considerate, generous guy. Of the two of us, he is the more romantic. We have been married 32 years. So I think I will keep him. As for plans, whatever does happen, it will be inside our home. Well, that could mean an awful lot of things, couldnt it?? 🙂 Hhmmmm….

  11. HI Grace & Robin-

    I will be making my husband baked ziti for dinner, with his favorite dessert brownies and ice cream. He’s the cook in the house, so I’m giving him a well deserved break. Then after dinner, we’ll exchange Valentines. This year, we decided to make homemade Valentines. I’m anxious to see what he has come up with. Then we’ll snuggle and have dessert. It’s nothing fancy, but it fits us perfectly.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  12. Valentine’s Day plans? After work, I plan to go CrossFit, run, and then make dinner. Oh! Wait, that might be because I’m not in a relationship with that one special guy. But, I don’t let it bother me. Valentine’s Day has never been all that to me; especially with this kind of odd history behind it. Hope that if you are a lover of Valentine’s Day it is wonderful for you.

    • I’ll hoist a flagon of decaf Earl Grey in your honor, Sabrina. There hasn’t been a special feller underfoot in this house for years, unless you count Petey Pumpkin, the all black, long-haired wonder Kitteh. HE thinks he’s special.

    • Some of my favorite Valentine’s Days were when I was single just hanging out with my girlfriends and talking about guys. That’s where I got the whole Dark Chocolate and Shiraz combo–DH wasn’t into Valentine’s Day and I had a friend visiting from New York so we celebrated together while my hard-working hubby snored.

  13. Lots of interesting things about Valentine’s Day – I knew some of it but not a lot of it. Last weekend my husband and I went to an American Legion dinner/dance which was very nice. He even got them to play our song:) We both won door prizes of the naughty persuasion lol. My husband got both our daughters and me each a box of candy and a lottery ticket (he doesn’t do waiting well lol). My one daughter won $20. Our legion also does dinners twice a week and they are to have a special one tomorrow and I want to take him to that one. All in all it’s been a good year.

  14. I am working tomorrow on Valentine’s but it doesn’t matter I don’t have any plans anyways. You forgot to mention the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, in Chicago in 1929.

  15. Happy Valentines Day to All! Great info re: the origins of Valentines Day; most was new to me. Thank you for sharing!

    My hubby brought home Roses and Lillies yesterday and he also gave me one of those new Hallmark flowers where you press a button and the flower unfolds to reveal a loving message. He told me I should take it to work today and leave on my desk…which I did. What a sweetie! Plans for tonight are for a quiet evening in…we just had a weekend getaway at a resort (paid for by his company as he was working the booth over at the convention center nearby). It was a fun weekend for both of us! But I’m ready for a nice quiet dinner tonight.

  16. While I love enjoying everyone else’s flowers, I’m glad my hubby didn’t get some for me. The kitteh’s love them too much and I have to put them up where I can’t enjoy them!

    My Valentine’s Day was kind of crappy, but it could have been a whole lot worse. A Chevy Blazer tried to take out my Mighty Purple Saturn! It was a four-way intersection, my turn to go, the woman driving the Blazer was distracted by her two daughters in the car and the slippery road and she hit me so hard in the back passenger side, my car spun around 180 degrees! I’m ok, but I’ll be sore tomorrow, I know. Both cars are drivable, but my back bumper is cracked and her insurance will probably total my ’96 out. My hubby of 23 years hadn’t gone to work yet and he came to make sure I was ok and take me to breakfast, instead of the lunch we’d planned. *sigh*

    But, it could have been a whole lot worse, so I’m grateful. I’m watching Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show with my cats tonight and might be in bed before my husband gets home from working the night shift. Thanks for the research and info! I love a little bit of history and background to make me appreciate our current life!