Valentines day, Saint Valentines day or the Feast of Saint Valentine is an annual holiday celebrating love which falls on February 14th. The holiday has been extremely commercialised over the years and for many it's all we know of Valentines. Big red love hearts, roses and champagne - surely this isn't what it's truly about.
There are various stories on how the day came to be but it is believed it was originally to honour one or more early saints named Valentinus. Although it is unsure as to the correct date, it is thought to originate from Ancient Rome in the third century AD.
There are many martyrdom stories associated with Valentines and February 14th, among which a written account of the famous man himself. Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers and for ministering to Christians who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. Emperor Claudius II, banned marriage as he wanted his soldiers to be devoted to Rome. Upon learning of Saint Valentines betrayal, he sentenced him to death.
According to mythology whilst incarcerated, Valentine restored the sight to his judges blind daughter - whom he fell in love with. Before his execution on February 14th, he wrote a love letter to her, signing it 'from your Valentine'. However this isn't when the day became associated with love. It wasn't until the 14th century when courtly love flourished and famous poet Geoffrey Chaucer recorded the first association of Valentines day with the big L word.
"For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make".
["For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."]
The date then evolved into an occasion in 18th century England, where people would express their love to one another through the form of gifting flowers, confectionary and cards signed with love. The day is now recognised as a significant cultural and religious celebration around the world, however it is not a public holiday in any country.
Although the day has a muddled past, it is clear how an act of kindness has changed the world in many aspects and created something beautiful from it. Even Shakespeare was inspired by the day of romance, writing about it in one of his most famous works Hamlet, of which we'll leave you with his charming words.
"To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more."
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5