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Valentines Day in Middle Ages

Valentines Day festival gained much popularity during the Middle Ages. Lovers began to celebrate the day by exchanging love notes and simple gifts such as flowers. The idea of linking Valentine's Day with love in Middle Ages was strengthened by the notion that birds began to look for mate during this time. Various legends related to the festival including that of Feast of Lupercalia and martyrdom of Saint Valentine further lead to the increase in the popularity of Valentine's Day festival.

Beginning of Birds Mating Season

During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that birds mating season began from February 14. This popular notion added to the idea that the middle of the February celebration of Valentine's Day be celebrated as a day of love and romance. Fourteenth and fifteenth centuries English and French poets and litterateurs through their romantic verses further promoted the concept of linking Valentine's day with romantic love. For instance, a verse by Dame Elizabeth Brews says,

And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine's Day and every bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.

Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, “Parlement of Foules'' writes
''For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day'
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate”

These popular verses further helped to create a romantic image of Valentine's Day festival during the Middle Ages. Lovers, therefore, began to celebrate Valentine's Day by expressing love to their sweethearts with an exchange of love notes and simple gifts such as flowers.

The First Valentine's Day Card

The first known Valentine is said to have been written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.

Historians also say that Saint Valentine of Rome also sent a letter signed “From your Valentine”, to his sweetheart who was the jailers daughter a day before he was to be executed. This phrase is still popular amongst lovers.

Legends influencing Valentines Day Celebration in Middle Ages

One very popular legend of Valentine's Day states that the festival originated from the Feast of Lupercalia - a fertility festival celebrated in mid February by ancient Roman during pagan times. The festival paired young boys and girls through a lottery system who would fall in love and marry.

Another legend states that a priest called St Valentine lived in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Valentine defied the orders of Claudius order that banned engagements and marriages in Rome and secretly married young boys and girls. Saint Valentine was executed by Claudius on February 14, 498 AD. Over the period of time St Valentine became the patron saint of lovers and they began to celebrate his martyrdom by expressing love for their beloved and exchanging love notes.

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