The Story of Valentine's Gifts

February 14, 2019




Did you ever wonder how the tradition of Valentine's Day gifts came to be? The romantic tradition goes all the way back to the Romans and early Christians and exists today as an enthusiastic expression of love and affection.


The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named Valentinus or Valentine, all of whom were martyred. One historical tale tells us that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. The Emperor Claudius II decreed that soliders should not be distracted by wives and families and outlawed marriage.  Valentinus secretly married young lovers for which he was executed on February 14th around the year 278 AD. Legend has it that while awaiting execution he became friends with a young woman and wrote her a note signed "From Your Valentine" 

Still others believe that Christians adapted a Pagan holiday that honors Juno the mythological Queen of Roman Gods and Godesses. The day after the Holiday on February 14th started a festival called the Feast of Lupercalia. This feast was organized to protect humans from wolves and to honor the Roman Gods of Agriculture but it also became associated with fertility, love and marriage. During the festival of Lupercalia single women of the town would put their name in an urn to be drawn by a bachelor. Once Christianity spread throughout Rome, finding love via a lottery was outlawed and the February 14th Festival was adapted to become St Valentine's Day. 

In the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem dedicated to King Richard II and his engagement to Anne of Bohemia. In the poem he writes " this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate." The poem was for the most part considered to be where the romance associated with St Valentine's Day began.  But what about Valentine's gifts? 

In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man's Valentine Writer, which contained scores of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover who didn't have a way with words . Elaborate cards with poetry were purchased and sent to lovers. This was not an inexpensive endeavor as printing, paper lace and postage were all quite expensive. In 1868, the British chocolate company Cadbury created Fancy Boxes a decorated box of chocolates in the shape of a heart for Valentine's Day and the gift giving at Valentine's Day craze heightened. Giving jewelry took the gift giving to the next level. According to statistics 10 percent of all couples become engaged on Valentine's Day which of course includes an engagement ring. Poetry, cards, flowers, candy and jewelry gifts at Valentine's Day are all part of an ancient tradition celebrating love and affection. 



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