With Valentine’s Day coming up, we at Le Nurb thought it would be nice to tell you about the history of the holiday and how it came to be.
In Ancient Greece, this was the time of year that people believed Zeus and Hera were married, and in Ancient Rome it marked the start of the festival of Lupercus, named after the God of fertility. Priests of Lupercus performed a ritual slaughter of goats and ran through the streets touching everyone they met. This led women to stand in the streets with the assumption that being touched would improve chances of conception and an easy labour.
In 496, Pope Galasius declared the first official Valentine’s Day. It is assumed he did this to pay homage to a third century priest, Bishop Valentine. There are a few stories as to why Valentine was killed; one being that he was a Christian after Claudius demanded that everyone only believe in Roman gods. My favourite version tells of how Emperor Claudius believed that married men were bad soldiers and therefore banned them from marrying. In 270 AD, Bishop Valentine decided to marry anyway in secret, believing that marriage was part of God’s plan.
When he was eventually found out and arrested, he reportedly fell in love with his jailor’s daughter (who he is said to have cured from blindness) and sent her a note signed ‘From your Valentine’, which is where we get the phrase from today. So now, in Britain alone, around half of the population celebrate Valentine’s Day by spending around 1.3 billion on cards, flowers, chocolates and other trinkets for their loved ones.
In the Middle Ages, people started the custom of choosing a sweetheart. The tradition of card giving originated in around the 16th Century, with Valentine’s cards becoming mass produced around 1800. The most recent ‘tradition’ began in the 1980s when the diamond industry promoted that Valentine’s Day was a day for giving jewellery.