February 14, and it’s Valentine’s Day. For many it’s a time when people’s thoughts turn to love. The sending of cards and gifts is known to date back centuries. So how did it all begin?
The true history remains vague, but there is a myth that Valentine, a priest in Roman times fell in love and was imprisoned by Claudius 11 in AD 270. Before he was put to death however, he smuggled a letter out to his love, hence the very first Valentine. It’s a beautiful story even if it is only a myth.
Then in the fouteenth century it was Geoffrey Chaucer who linked the date to the Christian feast of love. He wrote the first Valentine’s poem:
Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400)
from The Parliament of Fowls
A garden saw I, full of blossomy boughs
Upon a river, in a green mead,
There as sweetness evermore enough is,
With flowers white, blue, yellow, and red,
And cold well-streams, nothing dead,
That swimming full of small fishes light,
With fins red and scales silver bright.
On every bough the birds heard I sing,
With voice of angels in their harmony;
Some busied themselves birds forth to bring;
The little coneys to here play did hie.
And further all about I could see
The dread filled roe, the buck, the hart and hind,
Squirrels, and beasts small of gentle kind.
Of instruments of strings in accord
Heard I so play a ravishing sweetness,
That God, that maker is of all and lord,
Had heard never better, as I guess.
Therewith a wind, scarcely it might be less,
Made in the leaves green a noise soft
Accordant to the fowls' song aloft.
Th'air of that place so a-temperate was
That never was grievance of hot nor cold.
There wax also every wholesome spice and grass;
No man may there wax sick nor old;
Yet was there joy more a thousandfold
Than man can tell; never would it be night,
But always clear day to any man's sight.
Valentine’s Day traditions of giving cards and gifts expanded and flourished all over World,throughout the centuries to present day. In fact here are a few traditions from different countries that are quite interesting.
In South Korea the Women send chocolates to men on Valentine’s day. The men reciprocate on a different day called White Day.
In Slovenia, 14 February marks the first day of working in the fields. St Valentine or Zdravko, giving him the Slovak name is the patron St of spring.. They have another day and St to celebrate love.
Japanese women are reputedly reserved about showing love and affection. However in 1936 a Kobe based confectioner started a new custom of gifting chocolate on this special day. Their sales immediately went through the roof.
So to end, don’t forget the love in your heart is meant for sharing and many a good book has been born from love too.