Some couples are cynical towards each other on Valentine’s Day. Modern love capitalization can seem banal.
Valentine’s Day is not a new invention. Since hundreds of years, people have celebrated the Day by giving love tokens.
Geoffrey Chaucer was a 14th century poet, civil servant, and avid European traveller. The Parliament of Fowls by Chaucer, a poem written in the 1380s about love, is considered to be the first mention of February 14th.
It was a day to celebrate the mysterious martyred saint Valentine. Chaucer, however, described it as an occasion for people choose their partners. He knew it was harder said than done.
The poet’s narrator is unable to find love and despairs that his life is too short to spend learning to love. He dreams about a garden where all the birds from around the World are gathered.
Nature tells the flocks to choose their partners according to her rules, just as they do every year at Valentine’s Day. This process creates confusion and disagreement: The birds are unable to agree on what it means for them to follow Nature’s rules, because they value different qualities in their partners.
The Parliament of Fowls in 15th-century English. The Trustees of the British Museum
Read more: St Valentine’s – a minor day in a medieval calendar packed with festivals
Legal and emotional significance
In Chaucer’s Day, gift-giving was a highly ritualized activity that symbolized commitment and intention. A “wed” in Old and Middle English was any kind of pledged token that guaranteed a promise. The nuptial ceremony was only introduced in the 13th century.
In the same period, marriage was transformed into an unbreakable and Christianised commitment ( as a sacrament). Songs, short stories, and other forms of artwork developed new conventions for love.
These conventions have influenced the broader cultural idea of emotion. Love letters were written, great acts of service were celebrated, and tokens were given as signs of love.
Around 1500, Pierre Sala, an author, gave a small book of love poetry to his lover Marguerite Builloud. (c) The Trustees of the British Museum
Rings and brooches were given as romantic presents in the late Middle Ages.
Posy rings like this one, dating from 1530, were given as betrothal, wedding and love gifts. Victoria and Albert Museum
In some stories, gifts were imbued with magical powers. Rudolf von Ems, in his 13th-century history of the World, described how Moses had two rings made when he was forced to leave Tharbis, an Ethiopian Princess, and return home.
Tharbis would forget him if he ever gave her that pair. The pair he wore kept his memory of her forever fresh.
Illustration from the World Chronicle of Moses handing Tharbis The Forgetting Ring c1400-1410. J. Paul Getty Museum
Gifts can have legal significance outside of stories: wedding rings from the 13th Century could prove a marriage by proving the intent and consent of both the giver and the recipient.
Read more: Single on Valentine’s Day and happily so
The art of loving
Erich Fromm, a 20th century German psychologist, believed that people can learn to love. Fromm believed that love is not only about giving material things but also joy, interest and understanding. It can be expressed through humor, sadness, a sense of humor, or knowledge.
These gifts may take some practice and time, but there are simpler ideas that can be adapted from history. Since the Industrial Revolution, manufactured cards dominate, along with other traditional gifts such as jewellery, flowers, intimate apparel, and consumables. Chocolates are now more popular than fish. can be used to personalize all of these items.