Although I've never posted about it before, one of the many things that interest me is the history and legacy of various holidays that are celebrated here in the United States. To that end, I've been doing some research on Saint Valentine and this day to celebrate love.
Of everything I found the most interesting was this.
"Saint Valentine (in Latin, Valentinus) is the name of several martyred saints of
ancient Rome...Of the Saint Valentine whose feast is on February 14, nothing is
known except his name and that he was buried at the Via Flaminia north of Rome
on February 14."
Nothing is none about the Saint who's name has become synonymous with love and romance. As a matter of fact, up until 1969 the Catholic Church recognized not one, but eleven Valentine's days.
It is unknown with the Saint Valentine associated with February 14 was born or died. What is known is that the name Valentine was not mentioned in any ancient religious documents until 354 A.D. in a list of Roman martyrs. It wasn't for another 1,000 years before the name Valentine and love would come together. And for that we can give thanks to one of the world's greatest and most known poets, Geoffrey Chaucer.
Yes, Geofrrey Chaucer is much more than a character in the flick "A Knight's Tale" starring Health Ledger. Yes, he wrote much more than The Canterbury Tales. He also wrote a poem called Parlement of Foules in honor of the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. In this poem, Chaucer wrote:
For this was sent Valentine's Day
When every bird come to chose his mate
And even though it wasn't yet the holiday that we know today, it wasn't forgotten throughout the middle ages. The "High Court of Love" was established on Valentine's Day in Paris in the year 1400. Shakespeare even referenced Valentine's Day in Hamlet. Even then, it wasn't nearly as widespread as one might think.
So, how did we get to where we are? I like to think that is thanks is due to Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts. Esther received a Valentine's card from England in early 1847. From this it is clear that the giving of cards was popular in England first. Esther was also lucky enough to be the daughter of the operator of a book and stationary store. Inspired by her card received, Esther mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace. From then one, the holiday has ballooned to the "Hallmark Holiday" that it is today.
I'm not trying to make a point that Valentine's Day isn't a good day. It is a good day to celebrate with ones you love. I just want people to realize that it wasn't a Saint that made the day what it is, but a poet writing in honor of a marriage. Somehow it seems appropriate.
Happy Valentine's Day.