I started to write about love & chocolate, the common clichés you expect to be said, and as I was pondering this, I wondered about the origin of the holiday. Assuming it was a Catholic saint (in France it is St Valentin’s), I realized I had no idea. What type of saint would inspire us to exchange gifts in their name, gifts of roses and chocolate and diamond rings? Saints are to my knowledge martyred for their faith. St Valentin must have died for love, surely.
I needed to know and began with Wikipedia (I love Wikipedia) and found there were multiple Valentines/ Valentinus (Valentini?) going back to Ancient Rome. Lots of martyrs. One was a priest who died for marrying SPQR soldiers (they weren’t allowed) and ministering to Christians. One was a persecuted bishop. One was an African missionary who’s martyrdom is clouded in mystery. Legend has it that Valentinus (the marrying-priest) was jailed and prior to his execution wrote a good-bye letter signed ‘Your Valentine’.
So that’s the saint part down. But the tradition really took on significance in 14th century England, the era of courtly love. Why would that be, you ask? Well a certain famous poet named Chaucer wrote a verse claiming that bride’s choose their mate on Valentine’s Day - a loose translation but it started a fashion. Happy to report that a Frenchman, Charles Duc d’Orleans, gets credit for the earliest surviving written Valentine to his wife while a prisoner in the Tower of London in the 15th century:
Je suis desja d’amour tanné.
Ma tres doulcé Valentinée.
By the 18th century, sending elaborate love notes, flowers and bonbons among lovers in England was all the rage and seems to have cemented the tradition. 19th century manufacturing introduced factory-made cards but in the 20th century, Hallmark effectively hijacked romance with mass-produced cards that have become synonymous with the holiday.
The date celebrated is February 14th, Saint Valentines Feast Day. Now usually I would have stopped there but as we all know from reading The DaVinci Code, Christian holidays are often re-branded versions of older ones and as it happens, I stumbled across an article that was rather eye opening and pagan in origin. The Roman celebration of Lupercalia was held February 13-15th and was a fertility celebration. Eureka!
I expect you can imagine the kind of revelry the ancient Romans got up to. Opinions vary on all the facts but it is reported that animal sacrifice, some whipping and much wine were part of the festival. Yes, they went to the dark side.
At LeSaint French Chocolate, go to the dark side ... ahem, dark chocolate that is. We have hand-painted Flaming Heart Bonbons filled with Raspberry Dark Chocolate Ganache that will make your lover blush with amour.
We have plenty of sweet romance to offer your beloved - our Heart Shaped Mendiants come in Dark, Milk or White Chocolate; after all, everyone loves chocolate!