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Valentine’s Day We often hear people complaining that Valentine’s Day is all just commercial nonsense. However, it’s history goes right back to Ancient Rome so here we take a look at where our customs on this day of romance originate from. person you saw on Valentine’s Day would be your true love forever. There is some dispute as to who St Valentine actually was. There have been at least two and possibly even three St Valentines that have been supposedly martyred on 14th February in different years. Our St Valentine was most probably a third century Roman priest who practised Christianity and performed secret marriages against the direct orders of Emperor Claudius II who thought that single men would be more likely to join his army.

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alentine’s Day seems to have it’s beginnings way back in Ancient Rome. The Romans loved a party and their annual spring festival - Lupercalia - celebrated fertility and purification rites. It took place on 15th February and included, amongst other things, loud music and near naked youths running through the streets striking women with strips of goatskin. Somewhere around the 4th Century, members of the Christian Church decided that these pagan ceremonies were a little too...er… bawdy, so they initiated the festival of St Valentine’s Day on February 14th. However, in spite of the Church’s best efforts, the pagan customs continued to flourish throughout the centuries. In the 13th Century single women could be “won” in a Valentine lottery. These lotteries continued until way into the 19th Century and even when the tradition ceased, there remained the belief that the first 12

Legend has it that Valentine was arrested and thrown into prison. While he was incarcerated, he befriended the jailers daughter and before he went to execution, he sent her a note signed simply “From Your Valentine.” The first ever valentine card is accredited to Charles Duc D’Orleans who used to send his wife amorous poems and declarations of love from the Tower of London where he was imprisoned after the Battle if Agincourt in 1415. He called them Valentiens. The first modern cards appeared in the 16th Century and were very elaborate, hand made affairs. Red roses have become a symbol of St Valentine’s Day. They have symbolised both heavenly perfection and earthly passion since ancient times. They were first given as a token of love as recently as the 18th Century in imitation of Louis XVI’s romantic gifts to his queen - Marie Antoinette.

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