Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

But…why? Right? Why is February 14th a day for romance, and what’s the history of the word?

Well, obviously the name of the day is from a saint…two, actually. There are two ancient Roman saints honored with a feast day today…but turns out, the association of St. Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday didn’t happen for hundreds of years and is someone coincidental.

The tradition began in France, and it’s linked to the natural world. Mid-February is the time when, in certain regions, birds choose their mates. This would have made it the unofficial beginning of spring in that part of the world. It doesn’t require a huge leap, then, to realize that humans watched this interplay, heard the sweet songs, and decided to celebrate the arrival of spring and new life and new love with a celebration of their own. They decided to create their own celebration and tied it to the feast day of the Saints Valentine.

An early English tradition (recorded in 1723 as “traditional”) was for young ladies to write their names upon a small scroll of paper, and the young men would each draw a name. The lucky lady would then receive whatever gifts the man had prepared–a pair of gloves, sweets, something like that. These were totally random and by chance but did in fact often lead to matches being made.

Valentine meaning the card or note sent to a sweetheart wasn’t used until the 1820s though. This custom flourished from around then until the 1870s, declined, and then enjoyed a renewal of interest in the 1920s.

Do you celebrate St. Valentine’s Day with any special tokens of love?

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