As February 14th peeps its cherubic head up over the parapet, we look at the history of this romantic day and give you a few delightfully thoughtful and carefully crafted gift suggestions.
This year, more than ever, a thoughtful Valentine’s celebration – complete with gorgeous gifts, is exactly what’s needed to lift the spirits! And, with over a billion cards, more than 50 million roses and nearly as many Valentine’s chocolate boxes sold in the UK each year, it’s time for a bit of originality in the present department. But before you peruse our perfect pieces (men’s accessories in a passionate red, and heart shaped keyrings spring to mind), we turn back the clock with a look at the story of Valentines gifting.
So, where did it all begin? Well, the life of the eponymous 3rd century Roman Saint Valentine seems the best place to start. This holy figure (there might even have been two of them, but that’s another story) is said to have helped loved-up couples to marry in secret, when it was forbidden, by the Roman Emperor Claudius II, to do so. Whilst imprisoned for his selfless acts, our patron saint, allegedly, sent the first ever Valentine’s token to a woman he fell in love with whilst in prison - he signed off the letter: “From your Valentine”. And so, the great giving tradition of February 14th was born.
By the Middle Ages, people began to send handmade Valentine’s cards. Young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their Valentine would be and then wore the name on their sleeve - thus beginning the phrase to ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’. Who knew!
Young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their Valentine would be and then wore the name on their sleeve - thus beginning the phrase to ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’
In the 14th century, English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer strengthened the link between love and Valentine’s Day, when he wrote, in The Parliament of Foules, that February 14th (the first day of spring at the time) was the day when birds across the land paired off to mate. “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his mate.”
The bird mating season continued to be a popular time for sending love notes, with the most famous example being the young French duke of Orléans who, while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415 (prisons seem to be a bit of a theme…), wrote to his wife that he was lovesick and called her his “very gentle Valentine”.
And what about flowers? Well, the buckets of blooms we associate with Valentine’s Day became a traditional gift back in the 16th century. With the rose the obvious flower of choice for the day, thanks to its associations with Venus, the goddess of love. By the Victorian era, red roses became particularly popular.
It was in the 17th century that chocolate was brought to British shores by Spanish explorers. This then rare gift, also thought to have aphrodisiac properties, became an increasingly popular lovers’ gift, particularly on Valentine’s Day.
But it was in the Victorian era that Valentine’s Day became really big business, in London particularly, with stationers competing to create the most eye-catching cards and favours – often decorated with lace, colourful images and symbols of spring and romance.
And the rest, as they say, is history. A modern history of commercialisation, that is. Perhaps, looking back on the tender stories of the early Valentine’s gifts, it is time to bring a little magic back to this romantic day? Toss the mass-produced cards and chocs aside this year and give something with real meaning. Treat your loved ones to a beautiful British-made leather accessory that will last a lifetime. Soft, yet strong and long lasting – leather is the perfect symbol of life-long love and affection. You can even choose to initial your gift, as a truly thoughtful touch.
So, what do we recommend? Well, for the ladies, our deep red jewellery trays, pretty pale blue Pebble Grain Jewellery Rolls, or striking red Bridle Hide Notebook & Diary Covers spring to mind. Or, what about our delightful heart shaped keyrings, all in soft, sophisticated hues? And for the boys? A credit card case or travel card holder with bright red accents would fit the bill nicely, as would a pair of colourful cufflinks, or a limited edition Ettinger x Rory Dobner Notebook.
Whatever piece you choose for your loved ones, it’s time to make this historic of days truly special again.