The true meaning of Valentine’s Day


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/02/2022 (459 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As we all know, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love, and in this time of pandemic, it was nice to focus on something good and positive for a while. However, when I looked into it more closely, I discovered that the origins of Valentine’s Day involves far more than chocolates and roses.

The event is a blend of Christian and pagan celebrations that dates back more than 1,500 years. From a Christian perspective, the Feast of Saint Valentine on Feb. 14 was established to celebrate the death of Saint Valentine of Rome, one of several Christian martyrs of the same name who were executed by the Romans. Not a particularly romantic start to the event we celebrate today…

There seems to be general consensus that the more overt connection to love occurred about a thousand years later, when Geoffrey Chaucer (author of The Canterbury Tales) described the February Feast of Saint Valentine as the time when birds began their spring mating rituals (hence “lovebirds”). Apparently, members of European nobility picked up on this, and the tradition of sending love notes began at around this time. With the invention of the printing press and the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s, love notes became Valentine’s Day cards that could be mass-produced. The tradition followed North American settlers in the mid-1800s, with Hallmark Cards getting on board in 1913. The origins of Valentine’s Day as we know it are varied and based in several traditions.

The tradition of giving roses on Valentine’s Day may “stem” from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and her apparent love of this flower, or perhaps the British adoption (and interpretation) in the 1700s of a Turkish process of assigning symbolic meanings to types of flowers as a way of communicating with love interests.

Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that the heart contained all human passions, and the use of the heart shape in cards is probably associated with Cupid, the Roman god of love, and possibly a 14th century illustration showing him throwing hearts (and roses) at bystanders.

The Aztecs believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac way back in the 16th century, but it wasn’t until 1861 that Richard Cadbury thought to sell chocolates for Valentine’s Day — in heart-shaped boxes, no less,

While commercializing Valentine’s Day has led to significant positive economic benefits, it can erode of the true meaning of the event, such as increased social expectations of finding extravagant ways to express love. However, with so much stress and worry right now, Valentine’s Day was a nice way to take a break and focus on appreciating the people close to us.

Nick Barnes is a community correspondent for Whyte Ridge.

Nick Barnes

Nick Barnes
Whyte Ridge community correspondent

Nick Barnes is a community correspondent for Whyte Ridge.

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