People often ask about the history of Valentine’s day – that time of year when people open their hearts and spoil the special person in their lives. Well here at Bespoke Hotels we’ve researched the matter extensively. And that’s just as well, seeing as all our properties are very much involved in this wonderful occasion.
We’ve learned that the history of Valentine’s Day is obscure and rather clouded by various whimsical legends. The holiday’s roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. This was subsequently recast by Pope Gelasius I around 496 as a Christian feast day, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.
Which St: Valentine, Bespoke Hotels would like to know?
Which St. Valentine this early pope intended to honour remains a mystery: according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by that name. One was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni, and of the third almost nothing is known except that he met his end somewhere in Africa! Rather astonishingly, all three Valentines were said to have been martyred on Feb. 14.
Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine we celebrate was a priest who attracted the disapproval of Roman emperor Claudius II. However, after this initial point of agreement, the factual ends and myths have a tendency to intertwine. According to one legend, Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies and was eventually apprehended and put to death. Bespoke Hotels has discovered another legend that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed “from your Valentine.” However, the most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one centred on religious love, rather than passion, in which the unlucky Val was martyred for refusing to renounce his beliefs.
In 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable. St. Valentine was one of the casualties.
Chaucer’s Love Birds
Bespoke Hotels’ investigations now move to the 14th century when this Christian feast day became definitively associated with love. According to the scholars, it was Chaucer who first linked St. Valentine’s Day with romance.
In 1381, Chaucer composed a poem in honour of the engagement between England’s Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. As was the poetic tradition, Chaucer associated the occasion with a feast day. In “The Parliament of Fowls,” the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine’s Day are linked:
“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”
Hardly the most romantic of images!
Tradition of Valentine’s Cards
Over the centuries, the holiday has evolved, and by the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine’s Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards of lace and ribbons, featuring cupids and hearts eventually spread to the American colonies. The tradition of Valentine’s cards did not become widespread until the 1850s, when Esther A. Howland, an American national, began mass-producing them. Today, of course, the day has become a booming commercial success with around 25% of all cards sent each year being associated with Valentine’s Day.
Bespoke Hotels‘ Dinner and Overnight Stay Offers
Now this is a more modern tradition that has its roots in the 20th century. Restaurants and hotels use the evening and night to encourage love! Bespoke Hotels is no different, and all our hotels offer special Valentine’s menus and special room rates that have added features like Champagne, roses and chocolates for that special someone. Check out your local hotel here to book dinner, or here for a great break. But hurry it’s barely a week away!