Valentine's Day History

St. Valentine, we hardly knew you. Considering there were two different St. Valentines during the Roman era, no wonder there is confusion about who he really was and why he became associated with love.

Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the first to recognize in writing the connection between the Roman mystery man and romance. In his poem, Parliament of Foules, written in 1382, he writes

For this was Saint Valentine’s Day
When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.

It’s not exactly greeting card material, but it is one of the first written records of the day being associated with love.

After Chaucer waxed poetic about the day, others got in the game, creating little poems and cards to give to their sweethearts. The oldest surviving example is in the British Museum. It is a love poem from 1477 and you can see and read about it here

Later, in the 15th century, Charles, Duke of Orleans would offer a little ditty to his wife and further cement the connection between love and Valentine’s Day

I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine

You can practically see Charles coming home from a hard day of oppressing peasants with a box of chocolates tucked under his arm to give to the little wife. However, the only chocolate available at the time was a bitter version of hot chocolate introduced to Europe from South America by the Conquistadors.

Romantic men all over the western world would have to wait another three hundred years before the little heart-shaped boxes went on sale. In the mid-1800’s, Richard Cadbury invented a way to mix chocolate and cocoa butter to make a sweeter, more edible chocolate. To sell his new creation, he offered them in fancy boxes and the Victorians snapped them up. Whether chocolate shops put them out the day after Christmas is still open to historical debate.

Along with these new-fangled chocolates, Victorians exchanged homemade Valentine’s Day cards. It wasn’t until an enterprising American woman, Esther Howland came on the scene that mass produced cards became available. Esther had started making cards by hand, but when demand for her designs outpaced her production abilities, she began manufacturing them in bulk. Now, husbands all across America and Britain could panic and rush to the store to buy a mass produced sentiment to go along with their heart shaped boxes.

So, as you write your cards to your loved ones, give a little thought to those who paved the way, and have a very happy Valentine's Day.

If you love love then you will love my romance novels www.Georgie-Lee,com


Ginger Harrington said...

How interesting to learn some of the back story to Valentine's Day! Visiting from Inspire Me Monday. Have a lovely Valentine's.

Joy said...

What a lovely history! I had no idea that Chaucer had such a role to play in our modern interpretation of the holiday.

Thanks for posting this to British Isles Friday!

Joy's Book Blog

Louise said...

What a great post, Valentine's Day isn't really a huge deal in Australia, there's some marketing for it, but we wouldn't write cards, it's more used for just one's significant other.

Alyssa said...

Thanks for sharing the history. Thanks for sharing at the Home Matters LInky Party this week!

Lisa Isabella Russo said...

What wonderful history! It was very enjoyable to read!

Birdhouse Books said...

What a lovely history! I really enjoyed reading this.

Mary Hill said...

Great history of Valentines Day. Thanks for sharing on Literacy Musing Mondays.

Elizabeth said...

This was so interesting! Thanks for sharing it with us.