The BIFD’s National President, Clive Pearson, looks at the history of Valentine’s Day
Sat here once again at my desk in the Yorkshire countryside, there are only a few days to go before February 14, Valentine’s Day.
So what do we really know about this special day. We give and receive presents and cards to and from our loved ones but where did it all start?
There are a few different stories about how it all came about. The most famous being about a priest named Valentine. Emperor Claudius II decided that his soldiers would be better fighters if they did not have families waiting for their return, so he passed a law preventing them from getting married.
Valentine, not wanting to stand in the way of true love, continued to perform marriages for the soldiers, which angered the Emperor. The priest was put in jail to be executed. The jailer who was in charge of Valentine had a daughter who was blind. Knowing that Valentine was a knowledgeable man he asked him to teach the young woman.
Through the teachings her faith grew and it is said that through God, Valentine restored her sight. Before he was executed he handed her a letter saying ‘from your Valentine’. It is said that she planted an almond tree with pink flowers by his grave to signify her love for him.
Another story is that in Ancient Rome a pagan fertility festival know as Lupercalia was held around the February 14. It was believed this was when birds began to mate which encouraged the Romans to believe that women would also be fertile during this time period. Just to make sure all was well, they would sacrifice a goat and use its skin to whip the women; thankfully a tradition which seems to have died off!
The first recorded instance of St. Valentine’s Day being linked to romantic love was in Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem called Parlement Of Foules, in 1382: “For this was on Seynt Volantynys Day. When every foul comyth there too chese his make”. Those of you burdened with studying Chaucer at A Level English Literature will be able to decipher the above quote!
Moving forwards in time to the 18th century the more traditional poem “The rose is red, The violets blue. The honey is sweet, and so are you” appeared in a collection of nursery rhymes encouraging people to send hand-made Valentine’s cards to woo their lovers, which brings us to the present day which has become very commercial with flowers, cards, chocolates and other gifts been sent and received.
Red roses and the funeral services
One obvious detriment to us in the funeral service is that the cost of red roses for our funeral tributes increases dramatically in the run up to Valentine’s Day. Whilst losing a loved one at any time of year is painful, marked occasions like these can often add to the grief as families are reminded more prominently of the loss of their loved one.
It is an honour to be entrusted with the care of a loved one when they have passed away, and we must always strive to do our utmost to ensure that high standards are always adhered to. In the British Institute of Funeral Directors, we issue a licence to our members who carry out continued professional development through the year, which is one way of reassuring the families we serve that their loved ones are being looked after by a qualified funeral director.