Valentine's Day is fast approaching, but just what should you do to celebrate? Have you ever wondered why Valentine's Day is celebrated?
History can be a little sketchy; it seems that there were three St. Valentines in the early Roman Catholic Church. Most historians agree that the important one lived in the 3rd Century AD when Claudius was the Roman Emperor, and the Roman Empire was suffering a decline. Claudius observed that single men made better soldiers than married men, and banned marriage in an effort to improve his army. Of course that did not go over well with the general population. One lowly priest named Valentine proved to be both heroic and romantic by continuing to perform marriages in secret. Eventually he was discovered and thrown in jail. From this point on there are different versions of what happened next, but it seems that the jailer, Asterius, had a blind daughter that would visit Valentine. It is reputed that he cured her with his tremendous Christian faith. His final note to her said....you guessed it...."From your Valentine". He was put to death, supposedly on February 14th, 270 AD. His farewell letter was the first Valentine's Day Card!
In reality though, it is thought that Valentine's love for the jailer's daughter was simple Christian love (Agape) not romantic love (Eros). Historian, Henry Ansgar Kelly, credits the British author, Chaucer, with creating the romantic angle to Valentine's Day in the middle ages. While there were many different customs and traditions such as the Welsh tradition of exchanging wooden love spoons that were carved with images of hearts, keys and keyholes which meant "You unlock my heart!"
It is not known when the tradition of exchanging cards started, but it is certain that Valentine's Day Cards were being used as early as 1415 AD as Charles, Duke of Orleans sent one to his wife while she was imprisoned in the Tower of London. This card is now on display at the British Museum. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes in England.
While England played a major role in establishing Valentine's Day as a holiday, so did Worcester, Massachusetts. Modern Day Valentine's Day Cards were pioneered by Esther Allen Howland, of Summer St, Worcester. Shortly after graduation from Mount Holyoke College in 1847, she received a Valentine's Day Card from England. Intrigued by the idea, she started making them for friends. The idea was so popular that she placed the first advertisement for them in a newspaper on February 5, 1850. She grew the card making into a $100,000 annual business that thrived until her retirement in 1881.
Valentine's day is now the second largest card giving holiday in the world with over 1 billion cards being exchanged. But other traditions have developed since 1800's also. It is now customary to announce your love by giving flowers (especially roses), chocolates, champagne, jewelry and other nice presents to your Valentine. Couples also celebrate romantically by going out to eat in a nice restaurant or going away together for the night or the weekend.
If you're looking for something special this year, try celebrating at Clamber Hill where we offer romantic overnight accommodations and a special 5-course menu with wine pairing options. However, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate, just find some way to let your Valentine know how special they are. And if you can't do something special on February 14th, just pick another day and celebrate!