Valentine's Day 2014: 5 Surprising Facts About The Origins Of This Romantic Holiday

Happy Valentines Day
Valentines Day Origins. iravgustin/Shutterstock

Valentines Day 2014 is just around the corner: it's time to order the roses, buy the chocolates and make those dinner reservations. But before you do, take a moment to think about where this now fully commercialized holiday began. In fact, St. Valentine's Day began hundreds of years ago and made it's way through Medieval Europe and England, Renaissance France and 18th century London. Let Latin Times break it down for you in 5 easy steps.

1. Valentines Day Originally Had More To Do With Death Than Love. Valentines day in fact originated as a liturgical Christian celebration commemorating the martyrdom of Saint Valentine. The popular saint was supposedly imprisoned and then killed for performing weddings of soldiers who were forbidden to marry under a Christian service. According to legend, before his execution he wrote a letter to his jailer's daughter who he had healed and signed it "Your Valentine."

2. The Romans Did It first. In Ancient Rome, the festival of Lupercalia was observed February 13-15 to celebrate the start of spring and the fertility of the earth. Although there is no direct link between this pagan festival and the feast of St. Valentine, it is an interesting coincidence that this festival should predate what was to become the biggest celebration of love, romance and, lets face it, sex that the world has ever known by hundreds of years. 

3. An English Poet Made It Romantic. It was medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer who first created a stron association between St. Valentine's Day and romance. In 1381, Chaucer wrote a poem in honor of the marriage of King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia: "For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate." This is the first recorded association between Valentine's day and love or romance.

4. A French Court Made It Popular. In 15th century Paris, princess Isabel of Bavaria apparently established a "High Court of Love." It was founded on January 6th, the festivity of a Bavarian Saint Valentin. The court dealtplayfully with romances, relationships and love.  Judges were selected by women on the basis of a poetry reading. This the first time that the romantic associations with the festival became widely popularized.

5. Valentines Cards Date Back To The 18th Century. In 1797, a British publisher issued "The Young Man's Valentine Writer," a book containing sentimental verses and short poems for young lovers. Printers soon began printing cards with verses called "mechanical valentines": this is the first precursor to those lovely, automated Valentines e-cards. 

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