The story of Saint Valentine

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The tradition that romantics show their affection by exchanging tokens of love, letters and cards to their ‘Valentine’ on February 14th has been popular since the mid Seventeenth century in the UK. As many of us start to consider how we to spoil that special someone this year – a romantic meal, city break, an overly affectionate showering of gifts or just a bottle of plonk accompanied by chocolates and wine – have we ever wondered why this ritual exists and how it all began?

Although there are a number of possible theories of who Saint Valentine was, one of the most feasible is that Valentine was a Roman priest who served during the third century in Rome. The Emperor at the time, Claudius II, decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, therefore, he outlawed marriage for young men so that he had a strong and fulsome Army. Valentine, defied the Emperors wishes and secretly performed weddings for young lovers desperate to commit their love to each other.

Imprisoned for his treachery, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who many believe to have been the jailer’s daughter, who visited him during his confinement. Before he died, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still used in many Valentine’s cards today. Although there are several theories about Saint Valentine, what is apparent in all the accounts of his life is his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure.

Many suggest that the importance of February 14th comes down to the fact that this was the day that Valentine died. Others point to the beginning of the bird’s matting season in Europe, adding to the ideal that the middle of February should be the day for romance.

The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written 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, which  was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

Food and romance have been succesful bedfellows since the beginning of time. For those who are feeling a little amorous the recipe for a perfect Valentine’s Day should contain foods with aphrodisiac qualities:

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Chocolate: cocoa contains the chemical phenylethylamine, a stimulant that conjures just the sort of subtle feelings of well-being and excitement that can lead to other things…..

Oysters: It sounds a bit clichéd, but they really can spark randiness. These shellfish are brimming with zinc, a mineral that cranks up the production of testosterone, which has been linked to a higher sex drive.

Red Wine: Red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow and improves circulation before, allowing the blood to run faster and enhance the labido.

Champagne: Although there are no known aphrodisiac qualities in Champagne, the fact that you have gone that extra mile and paid that extra few quid to buy a nice bottle of Champagne will at least impress your other half into thinking that you are spoiling them. And if not, maybe the bubbles will get them!

Although Valentine’s Day has become more commercialised and marketable in recent years with pre-written cards and heart emblazoned cuddly toys; make this year special for your Valentine with a handwritten note like our original Saint Valentine.

Filed under Food & Drink.