From Romantic Saints to Ancient Scottish Traditions: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Valentine’s Day

The Beatles once told us that all we need is love. Charles M Schulz, creator of everyone’s favourite loveable loser, Charlie Brown, famously added the proviso that ‘a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt, either.’ Here in Loch Rannoch, as we gaze out among the truly beautiful scenery from the Dunalastair Hotel Suite’s luxury bridal suite, we couldn’t help but look forward to a little bit of both.

A little chocolate here, a little romance there, add a dash of breathtaking scenery, soft, warm, and cosy beds, and a certain touch of luxury, and you could say we’ve got the recipe for a romantic Scottish getaway.

Not that said recipe is ready to be served up just yet. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been adding those final flourishes to our bridal suite, and completing preparations for the day our romantic highland hotel opens on April 10th, 2017.

In fact, we’ve spent so much time in transforming the Dunalastair Hotel Suites into the perfect escape for besotted couples, that we’ve all been feeling a little hopelessly romantic as of late. We’ve been talking about all things associated with amore, and in particular, about the one day that celebrates the very essence of love and romance:

Valentine’s Day.

You could say we’ve been rather enamoured with the occasion, and have spent the last few days traversing the continents, exploring all the weird, wonderful and wholly unique ways that February 14th is celebrated around the world.

Ready to join us on a globe-trotting adventure of amore? Here’s the Dunalastair Hotel Suite’s complete guide to everything you could ever possibly want to know about the most romantic day of the year.

L’Amore in Ancient Times

Each and every year, an estimated 25 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent in time for February 14th. Yet despite its undying popularity, you might be surprised to learn just how little is actually known about the origins of this age-old celebration of love.

Back in the days of ancient Rome, the Romans held their annual Lupercalia Festival from February 13th – 15th. Originally celebrated in honour of Lupa, the she-wolf who legend claimed played a prominent role in the founding of Rome, the pagan festival evolved to feature a tradition which saw men running naked through the city streets, with women “purposefully getting in their way,” believing that the ritual aided fertility.

Ladies, don’t worry, the chilly Highland winds mean such a tradition hasn’t yet made it across to Scotland, so we’re fairly certain you won’t be bumping into any random naked men on your romantic getaway at our boutique hotel.

St. Valentine – The Stuff That Legends Are Made Of

What we can also be sure of, is that it was in AD 496 when Pope Gelasius first declared February 14th to be St. Valentine’s Day, quite possibly an attempt to reclaim the pagan festival for Christianity.

What isn’t so certain, is which romantic hero we now link to February 14th. The church recognises at least three St. Valentines, and debate rages as to whether we get our ideas of passion and ardour from a single one, or some loved-up amalgamation of the three.

Standing up for Love

One legend takes us back to the third century, when Emperor Claudius outlawed marriage for young men in the belief that single men made for better soldiers. As the story goes, those soldiers desperate to be with their beloved forever would run away to visit a priest named Valentine, who would perform marriage ceremonies in secret. Yet standing up for love was not to work in Valentine’s favour. The man would later be put to death for defying the the Emperor’s decree. A noble story, certainly, though sadly no evidence has yet been found that such a ‘wedding ban,’ ever actually took place.

In another heart-wrenching tale, our hero was imprisoned for helping to introduce Christianity to the romans. According to legend, in the days leading up to his execution, Valentine healed the blind daughter of his jailor and gave her the gift of sight. Later, he wrote a letter to the young lady, signed ‘from your Valentine’ – an expression still used today.

Tokens of Affection

Regardless as to which tale is historically accurate, by most accounts, we think of St. Valentine today as a heroic and romantic figure, both virtues which made him one of the most popular saints in England and France by the 18th century. By the 1900s, pre-printed poems and swoon-inducing quotes slowly began to replace hand-written odes to amore, with the advancements in printing technology making it much easier for shy romantics to confess their undying love anonymously.

As the decades evolved, so too did the way we declare our affections to those in our hearts. By the latter half of the 20th century, roses and chocolates had firmly established themselves as traditional tokens of affection. Then, at some point in the 1980s, some enterprising soul in the diamond industry’s marketing department struck upon the ingenious idea of using February 14th to sell more jewellery. Diamonds, as the old song goes, have been a girl’s best friend ever since.

LOL – Lots of Love

With the age of the Internet inevitably came new ways to say ‘I Love You.’ In 2015, an estimated 15 million eCards were sent on Valentine’s Day. Hopefully for digital romantics out there, LOL stood for Lots of love on this occasion rather than Laugh Out Loud!

Luxury Romantic Getaways

By the dawn of the new millennium, the decreased costs of travel, coupled with the increased demands of modern society, led to a surge in popularity for luxury romantic getaways in Scotland, serving as the perfect opportunity for lovestruck couples to escape the stresses and pressures of daily life and really indulge in some quality time with one another.

Of course, it’s not just here at our boutique Scottish hotel where couples choose to express their affections for one another. Trips to Paris, the romance capital of the world, and Rome, where this whole thing began several millennia ago, are also popular. Meanwhile, various cultures around the world all have their own unique ways of celebrating all things love, affection, and endearment.

From Valentine’s Day to White Day

Over in Japan, Valentine’s Day is typically celebrated by females presenting chocolate gifts to the males. In the ultra-conservative orient, such gift-giving isn’t necessarily reserved to a woman’s nearest and dearest. From small, store bought treats to co-workers and those a lady is only familiar with in a formal setting, to lavish homemade creations for boyfriends and husbands, handing Valentines gifts to men is more a social obligation than a sign of endearment.

But girls, don’t be disheartened if your beloved insists on an oriental theme come February 14th, he’ll have to repay the favour a month later.

Back in 1978, the country’s National Confectionery Industry Association introduced the country to ‘White Day,’ a time when men pay back the women who gave them gifts on Valentine’s Day. The idea, is that men should give gifts that are at least twice as lavish and luxurious as those they received in February.

From White Day to Black Day

White Day eventually made its way to other Asian countries, including South Korea, where they take things a step further by adding ‘Black Day’ on April 14th. Here, single people who did not receive chocolate in February or March, meet up at restaurants to eat a consolation dish of ‘jajangmyeon’ noodles with a black bean sauce, and commiserate the single life with one another.

A Scoop of Affection

In Wales, men still gift ‘love spoons’ to their sweethearts – an age-old tradition which is believed to have originated amongst sailors.  The lovers will carve intricately decorated wooden spoons and present them to the lucky lady. The designs are considered symbolic, with a carving of keys signifying a man’s heart, wheels his hard work, and beads his preferred number of offspring.

Jack and Snatch Valentine

One of many old British folk customs still rearing its head from time to time, Jack Valentine is said to appear at the homes of children, leaving small treats outside their front door, knocking on said door, and promptly vanishing into thin air.

In a rather cruel twist on the tradition, a second character, Snatch Valentine, is said to yank the gift away on a piece of string when the child goes to reach for it. This repeats several times as the child -who has been warned about the terrible consequences of following the treat- grows ever more anxious. Eventually, having just about broken poor Junior’s heart, Snatch Valentine too vanishes, leaving the child free to claim his gift.

A Romantic Scottish Getaway to Really Take Your Breath Away

Thankfully, when we celebrate romance in Scotland, the only thing taken away from you is your breath, as you look beyond your luxury hotel towards truly captivating scenery, resplendent as it is with fairytale castles, quaint, charming little villages, and miles upon miles of tranquil lochs.

Those loch-side trails are perfect for strolling hand-in-hand with your beloved, enjoying those majestic views and making magical moments that -just like your love for one another- are sure to last you both an eternity.

Scotland’s Valentine’s Traditions

That being said, we do have a few unique traditions of our own. Those of you who don’t already have a sweetheart shouldn’t be too disheartened, an old Scottish folk custom says that the first young man or woman you encounter on February 14th becomes your Valentine for entire day, and even longer if you happen to hit it off!

Elsewhere, just a few short hours’ drive from the Dunalastair Hotel Suites in Loch Rannoch, you’ll find the beautiful village of Gretna Green, famous as the Wedding Capital of the UK. This little village first became linked with romance 1753 Marriage Act in England came into force, stating that both parties had to be 21 years of age in order to marry without parental consent.  Since the act did not hold in Scotland, young lovers would elope across the border to be married by the smithy in the local Blacksmiths.

Today, countless couples still ‘elope’ over the border to tie the knot in the very same Blacksmiths shop.

In mediaeval times on Valentine’s Day the Scots would present the object of their affections with a Luckenbooth brooch, consisting of entwined hearts topped with a crown.  The name of this love token derives from ‘Locking Booths’ – the small shops along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile selling jewellery and trinket. According to legend, they were first given as a symbol of devotion given by Mary Queen of Scots to Lord Darnley.

Surprise Your Beloved This Coming Valentine’s Day with an Advanced Booking at the Dunalastair Hotel Suites, Loch Rannoch

Combining traditional Scottish charm with modern features and a timeless style, the Dunalastair Hotel Suites in Loch Rannoch is set to open on April 10th, 2017.

Though that may be a while after Valentine’s Day, we are now taking bookings, which means you now have the perfect opportunity to surprise that special someone by announcing -on Valentine’s Day- that they’ve got a romantic spring break in Scotland to look forward to come April.

At time of writing, just a few of our luxury boutique hotel suites were still available for the occasion, meaning there’s never been a better time to secure your stay right now.

Book the perfect romantic Scottish getaway for you and your loved one directly via the Dunalastair Hotel Suites website, or call the team now on +44 (0)1882 580444.

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