The Romans’ have a lot to answer for don’t they – roads, sanitation, heating, great wine oh and Valentine’s Day! Notice I made no mention of bottom pinching. That’s just a modern-day Italian phenomenon. There are varying accounts of how it came to be (Valentines Day, not the bottom pinching), but the key element emanates from the Roman festival of Lupercalia celebrating the onset of spring from February 13-15 and encompassing the celebration of fertility. Further investigation leads us to discover that this became a matchmaking festival – perhaps more aptly referred to as a ‘frenzy’. The men would sacrifice a goat and dog and whip the women with the hides of said animals. According to a report by the University of Colorado, the women believed this would increase their fertility! Sadly fertility vitamin benefits did not come to light until 1912!! Some 1600 years after the original celebration however and we still celebrate the day, but thankfully no longer follow the rituals. We famously mark this romantic occasion on February 14 by sending anonymous cards to the potential loves of our lives in an attempt into enticing them to be our Valentines. On a less than romantic note, another story tells us that Emperor Claudius executed two men on February 14 – on separate years but ironically both named Valentine. The story continues that the Catholic Church honoured their martyrdom with the celebration of St Valentine’s Day. Whichever story you choose to believe, there is no denying that Valentines Day still remains a key date in our 2020 calendars and naturally that of Hallmark, Clintons and the multi-million pound industry of greetings card companies worldwide, a far cry from handmade cards of 100 years ago. However, as individuals, the stories of handmade gifts and personalised ways of grabbing the attention of our romantic interest still abound, which is both refreshing and heart-lifting. It brings a reassuring smile to all our faces in the knowledge that romance is still alive and kicking doesn’t it. Mock as we may, when a romantic idea comes together, it reinforces our belief in love and isn’t that what makes the world go round?
So when did chocolate jump on the bandwagon? Well, for those of you who have abstained from the calorie filled delicacy for your ‘new year new body’ regime, it may be of interest to know that chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac. No really, it’s not just a cunning marketing rouse, it’s a fact that goes way back to the Aztecs. The rest, as they say, is history!! Mr Cadbury it is said, was the first to contain those sweet delicacies in a heart shaped box – what’s not to love? So let’s ditch the cynic in us and embrace the romantic to make this a Valentines to remember for all the right reasons. •