Let's explore the evolution of Valentines Day and Valentines Day Gifts. Many people falsely believe that Valentines Day was the creation of Retailers hoping to benefit from Lovers sharing Valentines Days Gifts. Certainly Retailers appreciate this Holiday and the fact that Valentine's Day Gifts and Gift Baskets have become an integral part of their business. Having said that however, Valentines Day was certainly not the brainchild of your local Chamber of Commerce. Many historian's trace the origin of Valentines Day to the Roman Empire. It is said that in the Rome of ancient times people observed a holiday on February 14th to honor Juno - the Queen of Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also regarded Juno as the Goddess of Women and Marriage. On the following day, February 15th began the fertility festival called 'Feast of Lupercalia'. The festival of Lupercalia was celebrated to honor the Gods Lupercus and Faunus - the Roman God of Agriculture and the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
An interesting custom was followed in the Feast of Lupercalia to bring together young boys and girls who otherwise were strictly separated. On the eve of the festival, names of young Roman girls were written on a slip of paper and placed into jars. Each young man drew out a girl's name from the jar and was paired with the girl for the duration of Lupercalia. Sometimes pairing lasted for a year until next year's celebration. Quite often, the couple would fall in love with each other and later marry. The custom lasted for a long time until people felt that the custom was un-Christian and that mates should be chosen by sight, not luck. Thank goodness!
The pairing of young boys and girls did set the mood of the Valentine's Day Festival as we know today. But it was actually due to the efforts and daring of a priest named St Valentine that the festival got its name and clearer meaning. The story goes that during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, Rome was involved in several bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius found it tough to get soldiers. The reason being was that men did not join the army because they did not wish to leave their wives and families. As a result Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. A romantic at heart, the priest of Rome, Saint Valentine defied Claudius's unjustified order. Along with Saint Marius, St Valentine secretly married couples. When his defiance was discovered, Valentine was brutally beaten and put to death on February 14, about 270 AD. After his death Valentine was named a Saint and February 14th was forever established as St. Valentine's Day dedicated to the celebration of Love and Romance.
Another theory is that many people in England related mid February to the beginning of mating season for birds and celebrated this time with the creation of Valentines Day. Consequently this day was celebrated initially by the exchange of hand made Love notes. Eventually the day become more commercially promoted by the marketing of Greeting Card Companies and Florists. So, yes the symbolism of Love being expressed by the exchange of gifts has been encouraged and marketed to the masses by Wholesalers and Retailers alike. It was not however, the creation of some intelligent retailer hoping to capitalize on the romance of young lovers.
My wife consistently suggests to me that every day should be Valentines Day and you know what? She's right ! In the chaos and hectic activity of your day to day obligations however, we often take for granted the love of our partners. Although people curse the commercialism of Holidays like Christmas and Valentines Day, having Holiday's dedicated to the love and togetherness of families and lovers can never be a bad thing. A Box of chocolates, a Gift Basket combined with a loving hand written card is sure to keep the fires burning. Valentines Day is fast approaching. Regardless of how you express it, remember to share your thoughts and feelings with those you love.