Valentine's Day--Its History and Traditions

Valentine's Day History and Legends


“To be your friend was all I ever wanted; to be your lover was all I ever dreamed.” --Unknown

Did you think the holiday season ended with the start of a new year? It doesn’t, of course; Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world on February 14th! I know, there’s a considerable gap between the beginning of the New Year and Valentine’s Day, but you will want the extra time in order to make this day for love and lovers a special one.

History and legends

The day is remembered in honor of St. Valentine, but there is some confusion as to which St. Valentine is honored. It is largely believed the holiday is in memory of a Roman Priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. It is rumored Claudius had St. Valentine put to death for secretly marrying young couples after marriage was banned in Rome in the hopes of bolstering the Roman army. It is further believed that before he was put to death, he sent a note to his jailer’s daughter signed, “From your Valentine.” However, it is sometimes said the day is celebrated in honor of a different St. Valentine, a priest held captive and eventually put to death for his refusal to revert from Christianity to Paganism. He died on February 14th, a day set aside for love lotteries. A tendency to jumble and merge the two stories is prevalent, but regardless of which legend one prefers to endorse, February 14th gradually became a day for sending expressions of love to others. In 1537, England’s King Henry VIII officially declared February 14th a holiday for the first time.

Valentine’s Day is symbolized by Cupid, the god of erotic love and beauty. Cupid was the son of the god Mercury and the goddess Venus. This tiny angel pierces the hearts of lovers with his arrows to inspire romantic love. He is typically depicted in art as a nude or diapered boy (or baby) with curly hair, wings, a bow and a quiver of arrows.

There are many historical beliefs associated with this holiday, most dating back hundreds of years. For example, in the Middle Ages it was believed that the first unmarried person of the opposite sex you saw on the morning of Valentine’s Day would become your spouse. By the 17th century, birds had become an aspect of Valentine’s Day lore. It was said that if a woman saw a robin fly overhead on Valentine’s Day, she would marry a sailor. A goldfinch predicted a millionaire and a sparrow signified a happy marriage to a poor man. These beliefs and others like them are all connected with the hope of finding true love.


The many looks of Valentine's Day

The definitive Valentine's Day image
The definitive Valentine's Day image
Cupid in all his glory
Cupid in all his glory
The dance of love
The dance of love
Chocolates make an outstanding Valentine's Day gift
Chocolates make an outstanding Valentine's Day gift
The look of love
The look of love
Red rose--the symbol of pure, romantic love
Red rose--the symbol of pure, romantic love
We all crave love and acceptance, not just on Valentine's Day
We all crave love and acceptance, not just on Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day lingerie is a popular option for couples
Valentine's Day lingerie is a popular option for couples
A romantic dinner for two is the ideal venue for an intimate evening
A romantic dinner for two is the ideal venue for an intimate evening

Customs and traditions


There are several customs associated with the celebration of Valentine’s Day and are intended to serve one of two functions: to tell someone special you love her/him, or create a memorable occasion to be treasured. The most popular and widely practiced tradition is to send a card or note to a loved one; ostensibly inspired by St. Valentine’s note to his jailer’s daughter. The practice became widespread in 1847, when Esther Howland developed a successful business in Worcester, Massachusetts with the sale of handmade cards. Hundreds of millions of cards are sent each year for Valentine’s Day, and this holiday is surpassed only by Christmas for the giving of cards. In contemporary America, valentines are no longer strictly declarations of love between a man and a woman—they have become a more generic expression of feelings that might apply to any friend or relative. Cards sent from women to men sometimes are “sealed with a kiss,” when lipstick is used to mark the envelope. Frequently, the card or envelope is perfumed, as well.

When a card just isn’t enough, gifts are a proper expression of love. The level of attraction can dictate what gifts are most appropriate for the occasion. If the relationship is still fairly casual, chocolates are a popular choice. Chocolates are usually presented in a heart-shaped box with a bow and offer a variety of samplings for your lover’s sweet tooth. The popularity of chocolates or truffles for this occasion may be in part because they are considered aphrodisiacs. There is no direct evidence to this effect beyond the perceived sensual pleasure of its consumption, but chocolate remains a popular gift between lovers.

For relationships with stronger bonds, flowers are traditional. The Romans believed roses were sacred to Venus, the Goddess of Love. Cupid spilled nectar into the Earth and it sprung forth in the form of a rose. The type of flower signifies different feelings, and it is important to send something appropriate. Yellow roses mean friendship, gardenias denote secret love, and orchids show beauty and refinement. Red roses, of course, are a classic way of saying “I love you.” A single red rose symbolizes new love and a dozen red roses indicate love and appreciation.

Other gifts include perfume, romantic novels, a book of love poems, and compilations of love songs or recordings of romantic movies. For the more serious couple, jewelry is a popular gift with necklaces, bracelets, charms or rings the items of choice. Men sometimes propose marriage to their loved one on Valentine’s Day, and a diamond engagement ring is offered in hopes the proposal is accepted. (Except for a wedding proposal, diamonds are overkill unless the couple is already engaged or married.) For the intimate duo, robes, pajamas or lingerie are popular gifts, and occasionally erotic literature is substituted for romantic novels or love poems.

Often the venue for presenting these gifts is a romantic dinner. Dinner with a loved one is very popular for Valentine’s Day because it can be enjoyed by both partners. Regardless of whether the meal is served at home or in a restaurant, an intimate dinner for two should emphasize ambiance with candles, soft lighting and music as the norm. The menu must suggest elegance—Valentine’s Day isn’t the time to be sawing through a pound of chicken fried steak. Fondue is a wonderful option that lends itself to romantic and leisurely dining.

When dinner just isn’t enough, couples sometimes opt for a brief escape from their everyday lives with a night in a hotel or bed and breakfast. Hotels excel at providing a romantic setting with cozy restaurants, massages, hot tubs and Jacuzzis, complimentary champagne or cider, and bed sheets adorned with rose petals or chocolates. These luxuries usually come at a price, and Valentine’s Day retreats will often be costly; but, they can be worth the price to create a special memory.


Having trouble selecting that special gift?


We’ve mentioned several Valentine’s Day traditions, but perhaps you are looking for something special and unique when a customary gift might disappoint your loved one. The meaning of love might be universal, but expressions of love encompass infinite variety. In simple language, sometimes we just flat-out don't know what to get for the one we love! I've been in this situation before--everybody has.

If you're looking for help and advice for what to give that special person in your life for Valentine's Day, I happily refer you to another web site featuring many gift ideas. The page is written by a true friend, and I eagerly recommend her taste and judgment. When it's time to think of something special, you're tired of wondering what to buy and need help, please read…

http://hubpages.com/hub/Valentines-Day-Gifts-For-What-Women-Really-Want


Show you care by planning ahead


Whether trying to impress a new love for the first time or celebrating a half-century of Valentine’s Days together, it is important to keep the occasion fresh with new ideas. Don’t offer the same gifts repeatedly, and never make it look as if your gift was an afterthought or hastily arranged. Love is demonstrated by care, consideration and thoughtfulness more than through a repetitive offering of cards or flowers.

I have personally presented cards, dinner invitations, chocolates, and books of poetry, roses and most other traditional Valentine’s Day gifts. My Valentine’s Day offerings have also included an oil painting of a sunset I labored over for weeks; a pen and ink drawing of my partner and I together; a CD of love songs I compiled; and, a Yoda puppet (inspired by an episode of the old television series,Taxi); Puppets notwithstanding, I am usually capable of crafting a loving and sentimental Valentine’s Day.

The best of my gifts demonstrated considerable time and effort in their giving. A drawing or painting couldn’t be done the night before, and even flowers or dinner reservations must be arranged well in advance. Restaurants fill quickly on Valentine’s Day, and florists can only deliver so many flowers in one day. To ensure your plans are not thwarted by being too late, plan ahead and act quickly—it will make a difference.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May you all know the love you yearn for within your hearts!


“We sang to the stars above and praised the earth below, you fell into my arms that night and I never let you go.” --Justin Hayward for the Moody Blues


Are you looking for another way to say "I love you?"


Dutch: Ik hou van jou

French: Je t’adore

German: Ich liebe dich

Hungarian: Szeretlek te’ged

Iranian: Mahn doostaht doh-ram

Italian: Ti amo

Russian: Ya tebya liubliu

Spanish: Te quiero


More Valentine's Day Inspiration from Amazon.com

More by this Author


Comments 23 comments

Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

Ghost Whisper 77 6 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

If the relationship is still fairly casual, chocolates??

Whaaaaaaa? I love chocolate! I don't care if it is casual or long term..I better have chocolate! I mean really really good yummy chocolate! The best gift I got was a chocolate bar under my pillow when my boyfriend was away..he hid it under my pillow, knowing that I would find it and lay in bed eating it all by myself..and I would be sooooo happy! heheehehe and I WAS! (Not only that-he knew I loved chocolate and that would make me happy and feel cared for :)

A painting? You painted a picture for someone? Oh my gosh that is great! The best gifts to me are the ones that are made with love and only LOVE! No store bought stuff...oh, except chocolate! Did I mention chocolate??


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ghost Whisper, thanks for commenting. I guess chocolate would be a good gift for any relationship, huh? And a good gift for you, as well.

Yes, I painted an oil painting for someone a long time ago that I was very proud of. It was a beautiful sunrose over a field. I wish I had taken a photograph of it before I gave it away, but so it goes. I can still see it in my mind, at least.

Thanks again, and Happy Valentine's Day (a month or so early)!


Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

Ghost Whisper 77 6 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

Well Mike you better be careful with that one. I like chocolate--but some women after long timey would not be happy with chocolate-so don't be taking advice from a girly like me, I'm a professional of 'failed'relationships.lol


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, Ghost Whisper. So, what you're telling me is that chocolate is a great Valentine's Day gift for you, but I need to be careful not to over-generalize and claim chocolate is the perfect gift for anyone? I will certainly accept that as sound advice. I may have to write a hub about stupid Valentine's Day gifts because I came up with a few dumb ones in my younger days.

Thanks again, I always enjoy reading your comments.


shazwellyn profile image

shazwellyn 6 years ago from Great Britain

Nice hub... from a mans point of view x

P.S. I have sent you an e-mailx


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Shazwellyn, thanks for your comment. Obviously, the male perspective is the looking glass I see through (or fall through?), but hopefully there is a thought or two that might be of interest to either sex.

Thanks very much for your comments, and Happy Valentine's Day (again, a month or so early)!


shazwellyn profile image

shazwellyn 6 years ago from Great Britain

Ive sent you another email, my friend!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Thanks for sharing all this info. I have enjoyed reading it.

Love and peace

Tony


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Tonymac, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it.


Truth From Truth profile image

Truth From Truth 6 years ago from Michigan

Nice Hub Mike, I think you can't go wrong with a good card some Godiva Chocolates, roses, and a night out at a fine dinning restaurant. And of course jewelry or lingerie are great choices. Thanks.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, Truth. I know it's still a month away, but it seems like Valentine's Day is already sneaking up on us.

Take care, and thanks for stopping by.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA

Mike, it is fine to say chocolate is the perfect Valentine's Day gift. When I was younger I did not like it much, but I was never offended if an article talked about how ladies love chocolate. It may just be me, but write what is true for you, and if someone bristles at your mentioned that chocolate makes the perfect gift, well perhaps they are too worried about things like this. In several of my hubs I have mentioned things make the perfect gift because these are written according to my worldview. If someone feels different, then they do not have to follow my suggestions.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

SweetiePie, thanks for reading. I wanted to be careful not to over-generalize because this was actually intended simply as a list of customary Valentine's Day gifts--it was never meant to be an endorsement on my part. I have been considering a second hub that might express how I feel about Valentine's Day and the giving of gifts.

My personal view of gift-giving on Valentine's Day is to give from the heart, and my view on receiving gifts is to accept them in the spirit they are offered. If my partner gives me a gift because it is Valentine's Day--whatever the gift may be--it is the perfect gift.

Thank you very much for visiting my page and leaving a comment, I respect your opinions very much and always welcome them.

Thanks again.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Hi, I really enjoy reading this one as I understand more now about the Cupid thing, planning ahead is also good if you have somebody too hehe, but then if none, we can just write at HP again,

I would like to have a gift like somebody will cook for me that day or just cuddle with me and give me lots of chocolates, LOL, Thanks, Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, Maita. Cupid is a curious little creature, especially when he is pictured as being in a diaper. I suspect he is the only god in any mythology that runs around in his Pampers!

I hope you get everything you wish for this Valentine's Day, Maita. You deserve it.

Thanks for your comments.


nikki1 profile image

nikki1 6 years ago

thanx for sharing


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Nikki1, thanks for reading. I like your avatar, by the way. Nice drawing.

Thanks again.


Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 6 years ago from London, UK

Thanks for the History/background. Now I should be able to explain it to some curious people (like my God daughter) when asked. I like the other ways of saying "I love you" that you included. Happy Valentine's day in Advance.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thank you for reading, Lady_E. I find the fact that the history and origins of Valentine's Day are so confusing to be fascinating.

Happy Valentine's Day to you, as well.


shazwellyn profile image

shazwellyn 6 years ago from Great Britain

Great work here! Sharing the love with you! x


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, Shaz... sharing the love with you, also!


Fluffymetal profile image

Fluffymetal 6 years ago from Texas

This is a beautiful hub. I feel like I've been hit by cupids arrow.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Fluffymetal, thanks for reading. I am a romantic at heart, and I am always hoping everyone finds the love we all need in our lives.

Thanks again.

Mike

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working