Ever wonder where our romantic Valentine Day came from? How did it all start? There are at least three St Valentines recorded to have been martyred at different times throughout history, but perhaps the most famous is St Valentine of Rome. The legend has it that he was imprisoned and later executed for performing marriages for Roman soldiers who were forbidden to marry. Whilst he was held in prison he then cured the Jailers daughter of blindness. All of the Jailers family and household then converted to Christianity.
It wasn’t until Geoffrey Chaucer’s time in the 14th century that the date of February 14th, which had always been venerated in the Christian church became linked with love and romance. The poem which read ‘ For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
The poem was written in celebration of the engagement of King Richard 2nd and Anne of Bohemia. In literature the theme is continued through such famous characters, Shakespeare’s Ophelia.
By the late 18th century cards and gifts, poems and expressions of love and devotion, were being exchanged by lovers across the western world. The tradition of flowers and confectionary with a card or poem became the bedrock of St Valentine’s day. The clichéd ‘Roses are red and violets are blue’ was originally found in a child’s nursery rhyme book in 1784.
Valentines day as we know it today was started in the UK and of course has become a highly commercial activity but as fewer people today realise it is also an important day of celebration in the Christian church.
There are also many folk traditions connected with the day for example in Norfolk, there is a tradition of a character called Jack that would come to the back door of peoples houses and leave sweets and gifts for children. Some children still find him frightening.
This ancient celebration of a martyr continues like so many traditions to change and evolve and being remembered for a day of love and commitment, seems like a good way to be