VALENTINE’S DAY IN SCOTLAND
Can you believe it’s already February?! I always enjoy this month because it feels like there is something to look forward to again. After all the excitement of Christmas and New Year, January can often feel a bit flat for me. This year especially, when there is so little going on, it’s super important for me to have something to look forward to, something to get me through the cold, dark days of lockdown and endless Netflix marathons.
I’ve always been a fan of Valentine’s Day. I know for some people it’s really not their thing, but I’m all about it. Even when I haven’t had a Valentine in the past, I enjoyed the day. In school, it was always one of my favourite holidays to celebrate. Buying cute gifts for my friends, choosing the perfect card for my crush that said “I like you” while really saying “I like like you”, treats, games, decorations, flowers… all of it I love. Call me a product of capitalism, but I definitely get caught up in all the hype surrounding the holiday, and I’m not ashamed of it. Why shouldn’t we take the day to let the important people in our life know we love them? Plus, it’s a great excuse to eat a lot of chocolate and make your boyfriend buy you flowers… 🤷♀️
I spent the last 2 Valentine’s Days in Sweden, a country that isn’t huge on the holiday, and I’m excited to be in Scotland this year, where the celebrations are a bit more like what I experienced in the US.
A new country means new ways of celebrating, and this week’s post is all about Valentine’s Day in Scotland. Interested to learn why a city like Glasgow calls themselves the city of love + more? Keep scrolling!
Though historians disagree on the exact origins of Valentine’s Day, the holiday was thought to first be celebrated in the year 496, and originated from a Roman festival called Lupercalia, which was held in the middle of February. It’s believed that as part of the celebrations, boys and girls each drew names from a box and would be boyfriend and girlfriend during the festival – sometimes even resulting in a marriage.
Over time, the church turned the festival into a Christian celebration, using it as a day to also remember Saint Valentine. Very little is known about Saint Valentine. It’s possible he might even be based off of more than one person. He is thought to have died during the 3rd century and recognised by the Catholic Church as the Patron saint of lovers, beekeepers and epileptics (gotta cover all your bases, right?). In some accounts, Saint Valentine was a Roman priest and physician, who suffered a martyrs death around 270 AD at the command of Claudius II Gothicus.
As time went on, St Valentine’s name began to be used by people to express their feelings to the ones they loved – eventually becoming what we know now as Valentine’s Day.
-The hype of Valentine’s Days celebrations can be seen in the Scottish shops soon after Christmas. Decorated with hearts, chocolates, teddy bear, and stocked up on cards, the shops around town will be prepared long before the the holiday’s arrival. Hotels and restaurants offer a romantic ambiance, knowing that Scottish people love small get-togethers or a candlelight dinner.
-Exchanging cards and gifts – often flowers or chocolates – as well as enjoying a romantic date with your loved one, is customary on Valentine’s Day in Scotland.
-Children often get involved in Valentine’s Day celebrations too, making cards at schools and filling them with rhymes and poems.
-An old Scottish tradition was for young unwed men and women to write their name on bits of paper, place them in a hat and each draw a name. If one name was read out three times, it meant a marriage would take place.
-In medieval times, Scots would traditionally present their sweetheart with a Luckenbooth brooch, which consisted of entwined hearts topped with a crown and takes its name from ‘Locking Booths’ – the small shops along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile that sells jewellery and trinkets. According to legend, they were first given as a symbol of devotion given by Mary Queen of Scots to Lord Darnley.
Scottish Valentine’s Day Facts
-After his violent death on the 14th February 273 AD, Saint Valentine was buried near Rome, though it’s said that his disciples later retrieved his body to bring him home. Today, churches across Europe lay claim on his remains, including in Scotland! It’s believed that his forearm is kept in the Church of Blessed St John Duns Scotus in Glasgow – which has led to Glasgow to label itself as the ‘City of Love’ in recent years.
-In 1268, Lord John Balliol’s grieving widow, Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway, had his embalmed heart placed in an ivory casket. Unwilling to part with him, she is said to have carried it with her everywhere. She undertook many charitable acts in her late husband’s memory, including the founding of Sweetheart Abbey in 1273. When she too died in 1289, Dervorgilla was laid to rest in front of the abbey church’s high altar, clutching her husband’s heart to her chest.
-Poet Pierre de Bocosel de Châtelard fell in love with Mary Queen of Scots after meeting her in 1561. Twice he tried to win her affection: On February 14th he hid under her bed as she stayed at Rossend Castle, then again by bursting unannounced into her bedchamber at St Andrews. Unfortunately, far from being won over by his enthusiasm, Mary had him tried and executed for treason.
-While Valentine’s Day chocolates seem like a staple these days, they haven’t been around for all that long. They were only invented in the late 1800s by Richard Cadbury (not sure I can imagine a Valentine’s Day before chocolate!).
-Calling your honey to wish them a happy Valentine’s Day is surprisingly appropriate as both Alexander Graham Bell and Elicia Gray submitted their patents for the telephone on February 14th, 1876.
Valentine’s Day will be a bit different this year, but hopefully you’re able to cozy up and spend some time with the people you love (but maybe make sure they reflect your feelings so you don’t get tried for treason).