Thursday, 13 February 2014

Of learning, love, and chocolate

Photo credit: Ardinnnn :) via photopin cc

Tomorrow, 14th February 2014, is Valentine’s Day. With adverts and gift ideas everywhere this week, it got us thinking: what are the origins of this celebration? NEC is an organisation dedicated to learning so we thought it would be interesting to find out, and in this week’s blog we’re sharing what we found.

We’re also getting into the spirit things by giving anyone who enrols with us during Valentine’s Day an extra treat of chocolate! More on that later, but first here’s what we learned.

The roots of our modern festivities are believed to be traceable back to ancient Rome. Early on, there was another event celebrated around 14th February in the Roman calendar, known as the Lupercalia festival. However, this festival was more closely connected to fertility than the romantic love we associate with Valentine’s Day these days.

We also learned that when it came to later Christian influences there were actually lots of saints who carried the name of Valentine, and more than one of them could be linked with the date of 14th February. Two such saints were a Roman priest and a bishop of Terni, both said to have died on 14th February and been buried near Rome along an ancient road.

It appears that at some point the Lupercalia festival and the commemoration of those particular Saint Valentines were merged into one event, or perhaps one was merely overwritten by the other. Either way, around 496 AD, Pope Gelasius established 14th February as the day of the Feast of Saint Valentine, and the tradition of festivities around this particular day of the year seems to have continued in some form or another ever since.

Valentine’s Day became particularly associated with romance after Chaucer wrote his poem, ‘Parlement of Foules’. The poem includes the verse, ‘For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,’ though many have pointed out this may actually refer to 3rd May, which is the date of the celebration of Saint Valentine of Genoa in the liturgical calendar (see, we told you there were lots of Saint Valentines!).

Around the year 1415, the French Duke of Orleans is believed to have written the earliest surviving example of a Valentine’s note to his wife, while imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured during the Battle of Agincourt. By the 18th century, the passing of paper notes with romantic messages to a loved one became a popular tradition.

This tradition became so widespread that by the next century factories in England were producing paper and lace Valentine’s notes for people to buy ready made–an early form of the Valentine’s cards we know today. The giving of paper notes and cards eventually extended to other gifts including flowers, chocolate and jewellery, and the tradition spread to other parts of the world. The modern Valentine’s Day we recognise in the 21st century is now celebrated as far away as China!

We enjoyed the opportunity to learn something new, and hope you have as well. Earlier on we mentioned free chocolate and promised we’d come back to it, so here it is:

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, anyone who enrols with us on 14th February 2014 will get some free chocolates in the post as well as their course materials. This offer will only last during Valentine’s Day, so don’t miss out!

You can view our full range of flexible distance learning courses by visiting our website, or getting in touch and speaking to our team who will be happy to help.

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