The roots of St Valentine’s Day stretch back to pre-Christian times and to the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on Feb. 15. Dedicated to Rome’s twin founders Romulus and Remus, famously suckled by a she-wolf (lupa), and Faunus, the god of agriculture, the festival involved a rite in which the blood of a sacrificed animal was sprinkled over both crops and women in order to promote fertility. According to legend, these newly nubile young women also put their names into an urn to be selected and subsequently paired up with the city’s bachelors for the following year.
Lupercalia was outlawed under Christianity’s disapproving gaze until a papal decree in the fifth century declared Feb. 14 St. Valentine’s Day. History (and supposition) offer several contenders for the romantic soul after whom it was named, including a martyred priest named Valentine who allegedly performed marriages for young lovers in defiance of a ban by Emperor Claudius (implemented due to the belief that single men made better soldiers); and an incarcerated Valentine who supposedly fell in love with his jailor’s daughter, and whose signed love letter is credited with being the first ‘valentine’.
The custom of exchanging valentines can be traced back to 1415 when Charles, Duke of Orleans wrote the first recorded valentine to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. Valentine’s Day appears in both Chaucer and Shakespeare as a celebration of lovers, and by 1797 the exchange of handcrafted love notes and tokens had become so popular that The Young Man’s Valentine Writer was published to aid heartsore young men in the crafting of suitable messages to their beloveds.
By the 19th century, mass production, the availability of cheap paper lace and an efficient postal system provided the perfect ingredients to turn sentiment into an enterprise, culminating in the first Hallmark Valentine’s Day card in 1913 – and we’ve never looked back: more than a billion valentines are exchanged each year.
For singles who dread the oncoming tide of sugary sentiment and resent the price spikes associated with it, take heart: Italy provides relief in the form of St. Faustino, the so-called ‘Saint of Singles’. A Christian martyr executed under Hadrian in 120 AD and the patron saint of Brescia, this obscure saint offers salvation by virtue of the fact that his feast day falls on Feb. 15, providing an opportunity to toast the passing of St Valentine’s Day for another year.
The Custom of exchanging valentines can be traced back to 1415 when charles, Duke of Orleans wrote the first recorded valentine to his wife
Love in Florentine Proverbs
Here is what florentine proverbs have to say on the subject of l’amore
Il bacio sta all’amore come il lampo al tuono.
A kiss is to love as lightning is to thunder.
L’amore fa passare il tempo e il tempo l’amore.
Love makes the time pass and love passes with time.
Dov’è l’amore è gelosia.
Where there is love there is jealousy.
L’amore domina senza regole.
Love prevails without rules.