For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
These lines ("For this was sent on St. Valentine’s Day, When every bird cometh there to choose his mate") were written by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382, and are thought to be the first association of St. Valentine’s Day with the idea of ‘romantic love’. Chaucer wrote his poem to honour the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia (they were married eight months later when they were both 15 years old). Although it was the first association of love with a Saint, historians believe the date was most likely sometime in May (not many birds mating in February in England!)
Before Chaucer, the Ancient Romans celebrated the festival of Lupercalia, which incorporated fertility rites and was observed from February 13-15.
During medieval times, a ‘High Court of Love’ was established in Paris on Valentine’s Day in 1400. The court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. Back in these times, an intricate code of chivalry was inherent to the day-to-day lives of Knights and ladies. Allegedly, the judges of the High Court were selected by women on the basis of a poetry reading!
The grand old chestnut Roses are Red has its origins in Gammer Gurton’s Garland, a collection of British Nursery Rhymes from 1784:
The rose is red, the violet's blue
The honey's sweet, and so are you
Thou are my love and I am thine
I drew thee to my Valentine
The lot was cast and then I drew
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.
The popularity of paper Valentine’s, made from cardstock, lace and ribbons soared in the 19th Century when the age of modern factories and machinery made production cheaper and more efficient.
And on to today. Gone are the lingering looks, smouldering kisses and vows of eternal passion of yore; now you can’t leave the house without being bombarded with a cacophony of advertising ordering you to purchase an expensive gift for your beloved or risk being cast aside for the crime of cheap neglect.
Nope, the excesses of V. Day are not really my thing. But am I just a bitter old cynic? How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you think one day of the year is enough for declarations of affection – or should love be a spontaneous thing, offered for free 365 days of the year?
While you’re pondering on the affairs of the heart, why not enter our Valentine’s Day Trivia Tournament! The competition runs from the 11th Feb until the 15th – and there’s a $250 cash prize up for grabs! How well do you know your Lotharios from your Lancelots? Our themed questions will test your knowledge about all things amore, and get you in the mood for some good ol’ lovin’. Barry Manilow soundtrack is optional.
ENTER THE TOURNAMENT HERE
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