Here’s a bouquet of Valentine’s Day trivia (in a taco shell!)
Editor’s note: Wonder what’s going on here? The photo by Alexis Murphy celebrates Taco Tuesday/Galentine’s Day (with the emphasis “gal”), which she took at the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park and posted on her blog. And the Allied Arts was also the setting yesterday for a pre-Valentine’s Day talk given by Menlo resident and local realtor Louise DeDera at the Kiwani’s Club lunch. She supplied us with a summary of her remarks.
The day takes its name from St. Valentine, a somewhat legendary Roman figure from the 3rd Century AD. He was born in 211 and martyred around 280 on February 14th. He was said to have prayed for his jailor’s blind daughter to receive her sight. When she received her sight, the jailor and his family accepted Christ. St. Valentine was to have received a pardon, but instead was executed by Emperor Claudius II.
Valentine’s Day and the link with love is thought to have originated from a Roman festival called Lupercalia. After sacrifice and ceremony by the Luperci (Roman priests), according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
Until Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules in 1375, the tradition of courtly love had not been linked with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day. February 14th is referred to in the poem as the day birds and humans come together to find a mate.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages but written valentines didn’t begin until after 1400. The oldest in existence today was written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, the US, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. By the middle of the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange handwritten notes or little gifts. By 1900, due to printing technology improvements, printed cards began to replace written letters. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to the popularity of sending Valentine’s greetings.
In America, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced Valentines in America in the 1840s. She made elaborate creations with colorful pictures, ribbons and real lace. Today an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.