On February 14th, we buy flowers, chocolates and gifts for our loved ones. Why do we do it? Some might do it out of fear of the wrath of their significant other, but I was curious to know the deeper history behind these traditions.
Why is it called “Valentine’s Day?”
The history of Valentine’s day started during the third century in Ancient Rome. The Roman Emperor Claudius II thought that single men made better soldiers, so he made a law that made it illegal for soldiers to get married.
A priest named Valentine was outraged at this injustice. Valentine continued to marry soldiers in secret out of defiance. The Emperor eventually learned about Valentine was doing and sentenced him to execution. Legend has it that while in jail, Valentine left a letter for the jailor’s blind daughter and signed it “From your Valentine” – a phrase that we still use today. (Don’t worry priests were allowed to get married back then. It wasn’t until 1193 A.D. that the Catholic church took a stand in favor of celibacy)
Why do we celebrate it on February 14th? The disturbing history of February 14th.
Valentine was executed on February 14th, 270 A.D. A few centuries later, in 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared February 14th to honor “Saint Valentine”.
Historians suggest that the Pope sought to replace the brutal Roman holiday of Lupercalia with a day to honor St. Valentine.
But why do we send each other flowers?
In 18th and 19th Century England and America, bathing was not yet a common practice. In order to mask their odor, women would carry around bouquets of flowers.
The practice of giving women flowers was made popular by “floriography” a cryptic “language of flowers” in which each flower has a specific meaning. In Victorian England, it would be possible to have an entire unspoken conversation based on the arrangement of flowers in a bouquet. These flowers would often be used to express desires that were not acceptable to be spoken aloud.
There is a lot of fun history tied up in this day of love and affection. If you are wondering something about Valentine’s day, or anything else, post it in the “I wonder…” section.