Before it was ever associated with love, February 14th was a feast day held in Roman times to honour various martyred saints called Valentinus, in particular St Valentinus of Rome.This Valentine was imprisoned for his faith in 269 and executed because he wouldn’t refute it. Despite pressure applied, he in fact managed to convert his gaoler’s daughter to Christianity.
Prohibited WeddingsOne of the things that landed Valentine in gaol was his practice of performing weddings for soldiers, who were forbidden to marry. Although in these times the couplings were more about sacrifice, and in a very modern sense, equality, Valentine provided some lasting symbols for the contemporary notion of Valentine’s Day. He would cut hearts out of parchment to give to soldiers to remind them of their vows and of God’s love. He wore an amethyst ring with an image of cupid, a recognised symbol of love, embedded in it. Soldiers would see it and ask him to conduct their wedding. Amethysts have become the birthstone of people born in February and are thought to attract love.
Your First ValentineSo before his execution, Valentine wrote a letter to his gaoler’s daughter, and signed it “ Your Valentine.” The original.
Valentine and Romantic LoveIt wasn’t until Chaucer made a reference in the 14th century that Valentine became involved in romantic love – or for that time, courtly love. The earliest Valentine’s poem came in the 15th century in which Charles Duc d’Orléans wrote of being smitten by love for his sweet Valentine: “ Je suis desja tanné, ma très doulce Valentinée”. After that Shakespeare and John Donne wrote of Valentine’s Day in the way that we know it today.
Random LoveIn 1784 this poem was not the cliché it is today but an original entreaty:
The rose is red, the violet’s blue, The honey’s sweet and so are you. Thou art my love and I am thine. I drew thee to my Valentine, the lot was caste, then drawn, and fortune said it should be you.The original notion that your Valentine is someone new or fated is evident in this. Originally your Valentine was someone you had to court ( courtly love). The love you have to run after, just like on a tennis court!