“For this was on Seynt Valentyne's day,/ When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate."
– Geoffrey Chaucer, “Parlement of Foules”
Valentine’s Day typically evokes images of red roses, precious pink hearts, and decadent chocolate. We, however, think of birds.
Birds naturally symbolize romance—geese that mate for life with fierce loyalty, and doves, those cooing companions of Aphrodite that raise their young together in pairs.
Birds, though, are even more intimately intertwined with Valentine’s Day than we first imagined; they are largely responsible for transforming the holiday from a commemoration of a martyred saint into a celebration of love. According to the legend, Geoffrey Chaucer and his medieval contemporaries began to link the mating rituals of birds to mid-February and the Feast of Saint Valentine, as the above quote illustrates. Soon, humans endeavored to follow the romantic example of the birds, choosing a companion on this mid-February day. And though the cause of Chaucer’s bird-Valentine connection is mysterious and the claims are inaccurate (most birds mate later in the spring), a tradition was born.
Valentine’s Day as we know it—with all of its roses, hearts, and chocolate—exists because of the pairing of geese and cooing of doves.
We wish a very happy Valentine’s Day to every lovebird!