Vintage Vignette - February 2016
Ancient Tradition or Marketing Ploy?
Romance and capitalization are both historic human motivators, but the origins of this February holiday seem to have stemmed from love.
- by Martha Whitney Butler
Valentine's Day absorbed the popular modus operandi of romantic poetry when the world swooned over Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Donne - all famous poets of their day who referred to the holiday in their work. By the 1800s, handwritten love letters and embellished printed cards were all the rage. Even though it cost a little more to send them through the relatively new postal system, it was reported that MILLIONS of Valentines were circulated through the mail during this time of year.
Flowers - We have Venus herself to thank for this gift! Being the goddess of love, she favored the rose as her flower - hence our tradition of giving roses on this day. Her worshippers left an abundance of flowers at her shrines hoping to win her good blessings in regards to their love lives.
In the 1700s, Charles the II of Sweden introduced the poetical Persian "language of flowers" to Europe, assigning official meanings to different flowers. Ladies of this era clung to their flower encyclopedias, assessing each bud of their bouquet. This way, the sender could have a wordless conversation with the recipient by sending them different flowers, each with its own meaning and symbol.
Chocolate - The ancient Aztecs used chocolate during wedding ceremonies as a nuptial aid, gifting it to couples to enhance their sexual prowess. Scientifically, we've found there actually is a link between chocolate and the endorphins in our brain that are associated with falling in love. This makes chocolate the perfect aphrodisiac!
So if you are an anti-Valentine's Day grump who thinks the holiday was created by greeting card companies and greedy florists, put a flower in your hair and eat some chocolate! This holiday has been around for a long time and is one of the loveliest days of the year. Use it as an opportunity to show some love to your local florists, chocolatiers, and artists!
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