Getting medieval on your holiday!

Nights of Passion

Hallmark and Cadbury might seem to have a lock on the holiday now, but Valentine’s Day celebrations can be traced directly to Geoffrey Chaucer. While the feast day of the martyred Roman saint gives the occasion its name, Geoff was the guy with the bright idea to tie it to romance.

Saint Valentine himself was priest who may have married Christian couples at a time when Christianity was persecuted (or not – he shows up on a fifth century list of martyrs whose acts were known “only to God”) but he got a slot on the liturgical calendar.

In “The Parliament of Fowls” Chaucer sets Valentine’s Day as the day when the birds gather together to find their mates. He opens with a sigh, “The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne” – that craft of course being the practice of Love. In his usual manner, Chaucer portrays…

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