Many people claim the supposed origins of Valentine’s Day are more legend than fact, but the romanticising of the stories of St Valentine has led to the celebration of love, lovers and romance we know today. From the sacrificing of goats to a romantic night or two in a luxury hotel, the way the holiday is celebrated has seen some changes over the millennia.
There was more than one saint known as Valentine in early history; little is known about their lives and which of the Valentines is celebrated on the 14th of February is up for debate. However the medieval obsession with chivalry meant celebrating the feast of St Valentine became an art form. The traditions of courtly love, including the giving of little tokens and writing poetry, formed the basis for our own modern day Valentine traditions. Valentine’s Day was marked in much the same way for hundreds of years, and in 1797 ‘The Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ was published, a helpful manual for those that lacked poetic flair but not romantic ambition.
In the 1800s along with Christmas cards came Valentine’s cards, and the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day began. These were made with lace and ribbon, and the development of the postal service only increased their popularity. Most girls in service were forbidden to ‘walk out’ with young men, but a valentine could be hidden away from censorious employers, with the secrecy adding to the excitement! Nowadays roses are the archetypal flower of romance, but for our ancestors, snowdrops or anemones were the flowers of February, with each bloom said to have its own meaning.
Today cards and flowers on Valentine’s Day are as favoured as ever, and the romantic gestures have become grander, with romantic dinners, weekends away or diamonds if you’re very lucky (or very generous) only gaining popularity. Whether you see it as romantic or tacky, the origins of Valentine’s Day are far from commercial.
A little romance never goes amiss so if you want to enjoy a romantic escape, on Valentine’s day or otherwise, take a look at our selection of perfect hideaways.