It must be love…what’s Valentine’s Day all about?

What’s Valentine’s Day all about?

As someone who participates in the tradition of giving – and hopefully receiving – a Valentine’s card, and who also creates and sells their own designs, I thought it would be wise to learn about the history of this rather romantic day. I’m no fan of being gushy about things, but it’s lovely to remind people (lover, friend, family) how much they mean to you – so I wondered how it all began.

Turns out there are a hole plethora of theories on how Valentine’s Day came into being, why it’s on 14 February, and why we honour it in the way we do. First lets start with the Saint – there were a number of early Christian martyrs named Valentine, and various legends that emphasise a romantic, heroic and sensitive man. My favourite is that Valentine actually sent the first Valentine’s greeting himself from his prison cell; he had fallen in love with a girl and sent her a note signed ‘from your Valentine’ before he was put to death – happy days.

Some believe that the 14 of February was the date Valentine died or was buried, or that the date came to be due to the attempt by the Christians to stamp out Pagan festivals by naming them after saints. In ancient Rome, February 14 was a day to honor Juno, God of women and marriage, and the Feast of Lupercalia began the following day. It was traditional for young boys to pick girls names out of a jar on the eve of Lupercalia and be partners with that girl for the festival, thus giving this particular Saints day a bit of a romantic vibe.

Whatever the truth, eventually the notion that Valentine’ day was a time to be all romantic was widespread. By 1382 Chaucer penned the first recorded association of the day with romantic love in Parlement of Foules. Ahh bless, this is how it went:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

[“For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”]

The earliest recorded valentine’s note that we know of was committed to paper by Charles, Duke of Orleans. He was captured at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and held in the tower of London for 25 years, during this time he wrote a rhyming poem to his beloved on Valentine’s day (there’s a theme emerging here…).

The tradition for sending Valentine’s greetings became popular in the 1700s. The precursor of the Valentine’s card were love-notes; small pieces of card and lace, later it became popular to add small poems and verses. With developments in the postal system and printing industries in the 1800s it became easier and more widespread to send Valentine’s cards. In 1847 Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, started producing cards, and in 1913 holiday card power-house Hallmark stared mass-producing Valentine’s cards in the thousands. Valentine’s is now the most card-heavy celebration after Christmas.

So the last bit about the development of Valentine’s Day is a bit dull – or maybe even depressing (no forlorn people in prison for a start). It’s all about sending mass-produced cards. How do I feel about it? Well, I can’t lie, I’m a card lover – I like to design them and make them, buy them and send them. I like cards that I know have been made with love and care, not by a factory though.

At the beginning I said it was lovely to remind people how much they mean to you, and that means all year. Valentine’s Day is a nice excuse to do just that – with a card, a gift , a hug, or even (shock horror!) by just saying it out loud. If your not in a relationship it can be an exceptionally rubbish thing – but it’s not just about boyfriends and girlfriends, it’s about everyone you love. I find there is nothing more loving than cooking for someone, so here is my Valentine’s gift to you; one of my favourite recipes for you to share with your loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Squid linguine

Serves 2

Don’t be put off by squid – it’s delicious. It can be really meaty rather than chewy as long as you don’t overcook it. It’s also really cheap so this recipe won’t break the bank.

You will need

  • 2 fresh large squid tubes, gutted and cleaned
  • Half a white onion chopped finely
  • 1 large tomato roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • 125g of linguine (or spaghetti)

Get the squid out of the fridge and cut the tubes into 1cm thick rings.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in boiling water according to pack instructions.

Whilst the pasta is cooking add half a tablespoon of olive oil to a  different saucepan on a medium heat and add the onion, garlic, and tomato. Stir and let the mixture heat through but not burn. Let the onion soften and when the tomato begins to break down add the lemon zest and juice. (If the mixture is getting too dry before this point you can add the lemon juice earlier). Add the chilli flakes and let the mixture heat gently until the ingredients are softened and creamy.

In a separate frying pan heat a little oil until hot. When the oil is sizzling add the squid and cook for 1.5 to 2 minutes until the flesh turns white.

Drain the pasta, and stir through the onion and tomato mixture. Add the squid and garnish with fresh basil leaves.


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