As if making more candy than usual, handling all the extra customers that come into the store, and waking up each morning to the kind of weather which most of us endure in mid-February isn’t enough, the days just prior to Valentine's Day can also be filled with calls from local newspapers and TV stations for Valentine's Day information. Their most frequently asked questions are, "How did Valentine's Day start?,” and "Is it true that chocolate makes you fall in love?”
Below find some material that you and your local media partners might find interesting and informative.
Legends of Saint Valentines
There are many legends that surround the origins of St. Valentines Day, a holiday that has withstood many depressing eras. The socio-economic forces involved with the holiday have contributed to its continuity – like lovers of all ages focusing on this bright spot amid the bleakness of winter, and the suppliers of goods that emphasize the message of affection.The genesis of St. Valentine’s Day is clothed in a number of legends, some of which include the following:
- On February 14, 273 A.D., a Roman priest named Valentine was beheaded by Emperor Claudius II. The Emperor had outlawed marriages because he felt they decreased the male’s zest for battle. Valentine was condemned to death because he ignored the emperor’s decrees and continued to perform marriages for young lovers.
- Another St. Valentine (there are reports of up to eight around this time period) was a Roman martyr who had been jailed. Valentine wrote love letters to his jailer’s daughter with the last note signed, "Your Valentine.” Other sources cite this Valentine as restoring the sight of his captor’s daughter.
- Yet another legend Valentine was a young Christian priest who lived in Rome in the 3rd Century A.D. he was martyred because of his faith, and a feast day was kept on the anniversary of his death. The date was February 14.
- Another legend of St. Valentine says that while imprisoned in Rome, the young priest wanted to assure his loved ones of his well being. Just beyond his cell window grew a cluster of violets. He picked some of the heart-shaped leaves, and on them he scratched the words, "Remember Your Valentine,” and sent them off by a friendly dove. The next day, he sent more messages saying simply, "I love you.”
- In England, the Romans, who had taken over the country, had introduced a pagan fertility festival held every February 14. After the Romans left England, nearly a century later the pagan ritual was abolished by Pope Gelsius who established St. Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love in 496 A.D.
- During the Middle Ages, Europeans believed that birds chose their mates each year on February 14. People developed their own adaptation of this ornithological myth and began the practice of drawing lots, letting fate decide the names of each person’s "Valentine.” Small gifts and sweets were exchanged, and this became a common procedure for the amorously inclined young men and women of this period.
- Ancient Romans celebrated a festival in mid-February called Lupercalia in honor of Lupercus, the Roman equivalent of the Greek god, Pan. Festivities included a matchmaking ritual in which young men drew the names of young women, who either became their dancing partners during the "Rites of Pan” or their partner for the year.
- The Frenchman, Charles duc d’Orleans, sent love poems to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London on February 14, 1415. These may have been the first written valentines and, as the ideas caught on, such notes were accompanied by chocolate and other sweets.
- The 17th century diarist, Samuel Pepys, records that lovers exchanged mementos like gloves, rings and sweetmeats on St. Valentines Day. Shakespeare suggested, "Sweets to the Sweet” in Hamlet.
- In America, the pilgrims sent confections such as sugar wafers, marzipan, sweetmeats, and sugarplums to their betrothed. Great value was placed on these gifts because they included what was then a rare commodity, sugar. After the late 1800's sugar beet became widely used and more available, and sweet gifts continued to be valued and enjoyed.As the candy-giving custom grew, American colonists made homemade candies with love notes scratched in the surface. By the mid-nineteenth century, candy-makers were preparing deliciously flavored sugar lozenges, pressed into hearts and imprinted with words of love – the beginning of the modern day conversation heart.