Facts about Valentine’s Day (and symbols of love) you might not have heard of!
While Valentine’s is globally a joyous occasion, with the exchanging of gifts among lovers and proposal of new romances! However, many also reject the commercialisation of the affair, with florists, greeting card makers and candy companies raising their prices for the occasion, leaving some people in relationships feeling pressured to spend money.
Whatever your opinions are about the day, here are some interesting facts about its history, as well as other symbols of love, that might just put you in a lovey-dovey mood!
- Saint Valentine really existed (probably)
You may have heard Valentine’s Day being synonymously referred to as Saint Valentine’s Day; and so it is easy to infer the occasion was named after a person. But who was he? One legend states he was a kind priest who cured blindness in a young girl, the daughter of his own jailer. Another legend states that an Emperor forbade marriage for young men who were to be recruited as soldiers, and so St Valentine, in siding with young lovers who wanted to be together, was the priest who performed their weddings in secret.
However, there has been no clear evidence that the patron saint of love was one person, as there have been various saints named Valentine (or Valentinus in Italian) who have been recognised by the church, with two in particular, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, still honoured on February 14th to this day.
- Valentine’s Day started in Italy
Well technically, its origins are ancient Roman, long pre-dating what we now think of as the country of Italy.
Some believe that Valentine’s began as Lupercalia, a pagan festival celebrating fertility (among other things) so ancient its origins pre-date even Roman civilisation. Held between 13th to 15th February, history depicts Lupercalia as a savage celebration, complete with violence and animal sacrifice.
More concrete as an origin story of our modern day V-Day, is that it began as a feast established by the Pope in 496 A.D., celebrating the life of Saint Valentine (of Rome) who had died on the 14th of February.
- February is when love is in the air (temperature)!
Mid-February became associated with the notion of romantic courting as it marked the changing of the seasons into early spring. There’s something about the weather getting warmer that inspires a change in mood and behaviour, including sexual feelings! In nature, warmer temperatures uncover animals from their winter resting, emerging to feed and also, mate. And it is likely that humans are also inspired by this ‘spring fever’, in observance of animal behaviour.
And among those animals: birds. Perhaps then pointing to the origins of the term “lovebirds”.
Fun fact: besides being used to describe human lovers, ‘lovebird’ is also the common name for a species of parrot that is known for monogamous pairing over long periods of time, as well as very social and affectionate behaviour!
- Cupid was a God
In ancient mythology, Cupid was the God of desire and erotic love. Legend says that when struck by one of his golden arrows, Cupid’s targets would be overcome with uncontrollable passion.
The depiction of Cupid as a winged cherub has many interpretations; that he is an unearthly angelic being from the realm of Gods, that he has child-like behaviours and instincts, or even that his wings represent free-will, like that of lovers and their own free will to fly away from each other. Nevertheless, his synonymity to the theme of love is constant, having been immortalised in countless numbers of art work from early centuries.
- The commercialisation of Valentine’s dates back to the 1700s!
The offering of confectionery and flowers, as well as hand-written cards known as Valentine’s, became popular in England in the 18th century; then leading to mass-produced greeting cards in the next century.
And those classic heart-shaped chocolate boxes? British confectionery company Cadbury began making them all the way back in 1868! And in the 1900s, Valentine’s presents evolved to include jewellery.
- The heart symbol we use today, might have originally represented another body part!
Ever wondered why the heart symbol, doesn’t look anything like the actual organ?
While it’s easy to deduce how the heart, out of all the organs, came to be associated to love (ever notice that increased heart rate when talking to your crush?); it’s inconclusive how this equal-sided geometric symbol was created.
While having first appeared all the way back in the 13th century, there are various artistic and scientific theories as to how the heart symbol came about. One of those theories, is that the heart symbol was inspired by the feminine form; with the curves of the heart taking after the shape of a woman’s bosom, or even that it looks like the form of a woman’s derriere while she’s bending over!
Makes sense, seeing that the peach and heart emojis look rather alike in shape!
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