February 14th marks St. Valentine’s Day, an age-old holiday intertwined with mythology, disputed origins, and time-honoured traditions. It is also a day marked by romantic meals and chocolate desserts.
The day honours early Christian priest Saint Valentine, whom Roman emperor Claudius Gothicus allegedly executed on February 14, 270 AD. According to legend, Valentine continued to perform Christian marriage ceremonies despite their ban under Claudius secretly. This defiance led to his martyrdom.
Centuries later, Valentine would become associated with the concept of love itself. In the 14th-15th centuries, popular belief held that birds begin their mating season on February 14th. This notion aligned romantically with the commemoration of Saint Valentine’s death. The link solidified as English and French poets composed verses depicting birds choosing their mates amidst celebrations of Valentine.
Exchanging affectionate notes and greetings on February 14th eventually became a tradition throughout Europe. The first recorded Valentine’s letter was sent in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife during his imprisonment in the Tower of London. By the 17th century, handwritten notes were commonly given as gifts on Valentine’s Day.
In the 1840s, Esther Howland began commercializing Valentine’s cards in America. Dubbed the “Mother of the Valentine,” Howland’s elaborate creations sparked a tradition of exchanging Valentine’s Day cards that endures today. Simple expressions of love have become symbols of St. Valentine and romance itself.
Valentine’s Day Recipes for All Ages
While different cultures celebrate Valentine’s Day uniquely, most centers on conveying love through food, flowers, and gifts. Put a Valentine’s Day spin on classic recipes for a romantic home-cooked meal.
Get kids involved with cookies decorated with pink and red icing or cut into heart shapes. Create an elegant dinner for two by plating dishes like filet mignon or lobster tails with heart-shaped garnishes. Finish with chocolate-dipped strawberries or champagne for a special touch.
With origins tangled in mystery and legend, Valentine’s Day is devoted to cherishing loved ones. Keep the tradition alive by writing heartfelt cards, enjoying tender moments, and expressing your affection through food.