Chocolates, hearts, roses, and love in the air- yup, it definitely feels like Valentine’s Day. Although we’re accustomed to a number of Valentine’s Day traditions, we may not know where a lot of these traditions come from. In fact, many of us don’t even know the actual origin of Valentine’s Day itself. In honor of this holiday, we plan to explore everything from chocolate covered strawberries to cupid.
Giving Roses/Flowers To A Loved One
The custom of giving flowers to others dates back to the 18th century (introduced by Charles II of Sweden). During this time, floral bouquets were sent to pass on non-verbal messages. Each flower had a specific meaning or stood for a particular message and thus an entire conversation could occur purely through the flowers. Today, Valentine’s Day is the holiday which sends the largest amount of flowers. Roses are the most popular because it represents romantic love. Specifically, the red rose is showered in popularity due to its relationship with passionate love.
The Heart Symbol
The heart is said to be the source of all human emotions and the representation of love. It seems only fitting to use such a symbol for such an emotion-filled holiday. Because the shape of the heart is vastly different from the shape of an actual human heart, many suggestions have been thrown out as an explanation. Some have said that the shape was an attempt to portray an organ that they could not see. Others suggest that the shape is intended to represent various shapes of the female body.
Cupid originates from Roman mythology where he is the god of erotic love. Although classical Greek mythology portrayed Cupid as a slender youth with wings, Cupid is now often seen as a young boy bearing a bow and arrows. Myths have suggested that being shot with Cupid’s arrow results in uncontrolled desire.
Rather than spelling out the phrase hugs and kisses, people will often use the letters X and O. While the origin of O is unknown, we do have an idea for why X stands for kiss. In the middle ages (when reading and writing skills were scarce), documents were often signed with an X. The signer would then kiss the X in front of a witness to show earnest feelings. Similarly, in Christian history, people would kiss the X after signing an oath to prove sincerity.
Although many people link the discovery of chocolate to Latin America nearly 2000 years ago, the Mayans and Aztecs seem to have delighted in the product even earlier. They would place cocoa beans in water to drink or even use cocoa beans as a form of money. People began realizing the correlation between chocolate and feelings of excitement, attraction, and pleasure- so much that nuns were forbidden to eat chocolate and French doctors used it to cure “broken hearts”. With such strong emotions gained from this treat, it seems to make perfect sense to put some chocolate in a heart shaped box for Valentines.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
The origin of chocolate covered strawberries is often credited to Lorraine Lorusso who introduced them at a store called “Stop n Shop” during the 1960s. The act of dipping fruits in chocolate may have begun much earlier. When chocolate was first introduced in Latin America, the product was very bitter and people often ate it with fruit to balance the flavors.
The Holiday Itself
There are many legends concerning Saint Valentine. The most popular one describes Valentine as a Roman priest in the third century. Legend says that Emperor Claudius II believed that soldiers were better suited for battle if they didn’t have wives and families to think about. Because of this, he outlawed marriage for young men. Believing that this law was wrong, St. Valentine began performing weddings for young couples in secret. He was eventually discovered and imprisoned for his actions. During his imprisonment, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and sent her the very first valentine- a letter which he signed “From Your Valentine”. We’ve been using this phrase ever since.