Stories behind Valentine’s day, traditions and gifts

Love is in the air! Valentine’s day is next week and it’s almost impossible to miss it because we are constantly reminded by store windows when walking by in the streets or social media and internet. It is time for giving gifts to your loved ones and make them happy!

But as many of you know, the 14th of February was not always a happy day!

According to the legend the Roman Emperor Claudius II forbade weddings and engagements in Rome, believing that it would be easier to recruit young unmarried man to the army. Of course rules were broken: a Christian Priest Valentine continued marrying couples in love! He was imprisoned and terribly punished  for his deception, but before his execution on February 14th , around A.D. 270, he wrote a letter “From your Valentine” to his jailer's daughter, who was visiting imprisoned priest.

Yet,14th of February was not mentioned as lover’s day until fourteenth century when English writer, philosopher and poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in his work ”Parliament of Foules”:
“For this was on Slynt
Valentynes day/whan
Every foul cometh ther to
Chese his make” (Old English)

So 14th of February became a celebration of love! Of course celebrations are always bonded with gifts! Main gifts for Valentine’s day today are cards with handwritten texts, flowers, chocolates and Jewelry!

Here are some stories about these simple but sometimes quite durable gifts:

  • The oldest known hand written Valentine poem is by Duke of Orlean’s, Charles, sent to his wife from Tower of London, where he was imprisoned after the Battle of Agincourt. Thanks to the developments in technology of printing, ready-made Valentine cards replaced hand written letters long time ago.
  • Flowers always have been silent messengers, but in case of Valentines day, choice of flower is a red rose, considered to be a favourite flower of Venus, goddess of love.
  • Chocolates came to France with the Spanish Princess Maria Therese of Austria. She married Louis XIV of France and gave her fiancé an engagement gift of chocolate, package in a beautiful chest. Since then chocolate ”seduced” Europe and gained a reputation of an aphrodisiac. The more expencive the chocolate was, more desirable the woman/man was considered. In 1780, first machine-made chocolate was produced in Spain, Barcelona and slowly become affordable to everyone.
  • And last but not least Jewelry! Small letters, flowers and chocolate that expressed admiration were often replaced with jewelry items, especially in upper class. Of course not everyone could afford this handmade, durable pieces. Around 1870’s when the metal press was invented, it was possible to mass produce affordable Jewelry and it became one of most desirable Valentine’s day gift!

In Sweden celebration of Valentine’ day is called “ Alla hjartas dag” and is relatively new, from 1900’s and is celebrated more and more every year.

So if you wonder how to express your feelings for your loved ones, the Valentine’s day is the day to be romantic! It does not have to be a most expensive gift, but it most likely will be much appreciated! Celebrate Love!