LOVE is never as simple or as straight forward as it seems and nor is Valentine’s Day.
The day of lovers is a date steeped in blood and misery and one championed by the world’s most famous writer into the celebration of romance it has become.
BLOODY ORIGINS OF LOVE
Historians are divided over the exact origins of Valentine’s Day but either way its bloody and brutal early days are a far cry from the romance it is associated with now.
Much love, and credit, is given to the Romans for the birth of Valentine’s Day. According to one theory, the Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia from February 13 to 15. During this festival animals were sacrificed and women were then whipped with the hides of the slain animals in the belief it would make them fertile.
Yale historian Noel Lenski told NPR the Roman romantics “were drunk and naked” during the outrageous celebration.
Another theory says our worldwide day of love is owed to martyred St. Valentine or Valentinus. St. Valentine defied Roman Emperor Cladius II’s decree that no soldiers were permitted to marry because single men made better fighters. When St. Valentine was discovered marrying young lovers in secret, Cladius ordered that he be executed. The order was said to be have been carried through on February 14.
BIRDS’ MATING SEASON BEGINS
During the Middle Ages in both England and France it was commonly accepted that February 14 was the beginning of the birds’ mating season and as a result the date became associated with one of love and coupling.
LOVE LASTS THROUGH JAIL WALLS
The oldest known Valentine in existence was written by Charles, The Duke of New Orleans, way back in 1415. The Duke is credited with coining the phrase “My Valentine.”
The revered medieval poet penned a love letter, titled Farewell to Love, to his wife when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured at the Battle of Agincourt.
The poem was written in French and English and is now part of a collection at the British Library in London.
It ends with the words:
I am already sick of love
My very gentle Valentine
CHAUCER AND SHAKESPEARE CHAMPION LOVE
Literature giants Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare contributed significantly to the growth in popularity of February 14 as a day for the lovers during the Middle Ages.
The famous pair romanticized the day in much of their work and as a result it gained tremendous popularity in Britain and throughout the rest of Europe.
The widespread use of handmade paper cards became a part of popular culture during this time on the back of their writings.
The first recorded mention of Valentine’s Day association with romance is said to be in Chaucer’s “Parliament of Fowls” (1382) in which he wrote: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
The poem was written as a tribute to the marriage of England’s King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. It could also have been a reference to the start of the birds’ mating season.
Two of Shakespeare’s most popular quotes referred to on Valentine’s Day are: “They do not love that do not show their love” and “the course of true love never did run smooth”.
The famous ‘Roses are red’ verse is traced by to Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene.”
CHOCOLATE ‘CAN CURE A BROKEN HEART’
In the 1800s doctors began to prescribe chocolate for matters of love. In some quarters it was believed a dose of chocolate would cure a broken heart.
More recently doctors have confirmed chocolate can lift mood and that it has antidepressant qualities.
COURT OF LOVE
A Court of Love existed during Medieval Times in France to decide on questions of love. It was the Court’s role to rule on queries regarding love, to settle disputes between couples, and to pass sentences on a lover who was found to be in the wrong.
It was established in 15th Century Parios by Princess Isabel of Bavaria and was said to be exceptionally busy on and around St Valentine’s Day.
SINGLES AWARNESS DAY
Singles Awareness Day or S.A.D. has been coined as a mainly humorous anti-Valentines Day for singles or even for those who oppose February 14 as a “Hallmark Holiday”.
Singles Awarness (or Appreciation) Day is celebrated on February 15 and according to the Singles Awareness website it is a day for people to “proudly stand up and show that it is OK to be single”.
This article originally appeared at news.com.au.