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St Valentine's Day - Love is in the Air!

14 February has for centuries been considered to be the most romantic day of the year - a day for gestures, big and small, from wedding proposals to small tokens of love and affection. But where did it all begin?

The origins of St Valentine's Day are somewhat of a mystery. There are a few saints named Valentine, all of whom were martyred sometime between the 2nd-5th centuries, but little is known about them. Perhaps that is why several romantic legends have developed creating a Saint who has become inextricably linked with love and romance.

It is not until the Middle Ages that St Valentine's Day becomes associated with love, and it may be because at this time, in France and in England, the mating season of birds was believed to begin on 14th February, thus taking a cue from "lovebirds" and leading to the idea of it being a day of romance.

The first person to link St Valentine's Day with love seems to be Geoffrey Chaucer, famous poet and author of the Canterbury Tales. In 1375 Chaucer wrote a poem, "Parliament of Foules" (Parliament of Fowls) to celebrate the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia when both were only 15 years old. In the poem, Chaucer writes: "For this was on Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird comes there to choose his match". Indeed, Richard and Anne were very much in love, and are buried together in Westminster Abbey.

It is said that the very first Valentine to be written was in the year 1415, by Charles, Duke of Orleans, who wrote to his wife while being held at the Tower of London, following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.

In the UK, Valentine's Day was not popularly celebrated until the 17th century, and by the 18th century it became common to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. In 1868, chocolate boxes in the shape of hearts were first introduced by the Cadbury chocolate company and has been a popular association ever since.

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