It’s commonly believed that Valentine’s Day is a romantic holiday because of Saint Valentine but it’s really Geoffrey Chaucer who first associated Valentine’s Day with romantic love.

Popular legend claims that Saint Valentine was a Roman priest, who lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius supposedly created a law in Rome which ordered that the young men in the city could not marry, as he believed that married men did not make for good soldiers. Valentine secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young couples anyway, which got him thrown in jail. The story goes on to say that the night before Claudius made Valentine a martyr, he wrote the very first ‘valentine’ card to a young girl identified as his beloved. He is said to have signed at the bottom of the note ‘from your Valentine’. 

Actual history tells us that Saint Valentine is the name of many martyred saints of ancient Rome, with ‘Valentine’ meaning worthy, strong and powerful. Nothing is known about the Saint Valentine whose feast is celebrated other than his name and that he was buried at the Via Flaminia on February 14.

It was not until the 14 century during the High Middle Ages in England when the Saint Valentine’s Day feast became associated with romantic love, thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer and the traditions of courtly love. It is in Chaucer’s poem Parlement of Foules that the first record of is made of romantic love with Valentine’s Day.

From the 14th century to today, Valentine’s Day and romantic love goes hand-in-hand with the tradition of couples exchanging Valentine cards and other gifts. While heart-shaped boxes full of chocolate and red rose bouquets have become Valentine’s Day gift classics, there are several other ways to celebrate the day using local stores and restaurants.

The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is hosting a unique Valentine’s Day experience under the stars of their planetarium called Total Eclipse of the Heart. The event begins with tasty treats that are proven to evoke feelings of love and includes a light dinner underneath a changing sky. Couples will be able to view a starlit sky over Paris, Buenos Aires and Niagara Falls while listening to tales of ancient love stories and more. The cost to attend the event is $100 per couple and $80 for MOSI member couples. Seating starts at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 14. Pre-register your reservation by calling 987-6000.

Instead of buying a box of predetermined chocolates, go to The Original Leena’s Chocolates, located at 1048 E. Bloomingdale Ave. in Valrico. Leena’s offers customers a variety of decadent treats ranging from chocolate covered popcorn and designer cookies to apples dipped in caramel, rolled in nuts and dipped in chocolate and of course, chocolate covered strawberries. To ensure that your sweetheart loves each and every chocolate in her gift, Leena’s does custom gift baskets. For more information, call 643-8500.

Sumatra Bistro, located at 1602 Oakfield Drive in Brandon, will be tapping into French culture by having a Julie and Julia Movie Weekend with all French cuisine and very special wine selection. The bistro will also be open on Valentine’s Day for a special dinner. To make your reservation for you and your special someone, call 655-6200.

If you are a fan of heart shaped boxes filled with chocolates and other goodies, you are going to love Formaggio’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria’s heart shaped pizza. For the same price as a large pepperoni pizza, you and your other half can share a delicious heart shaped pizza pie. Formaggio’s, located at 3474 Lithia Pinecrest Rd., is already taking orders for this special pizza. To place your order today, call 643-1415.

Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day over dinner, celebrate with your loved one over a romantic brunch. The Tea Cup Tea Room, located at 1107 Lithia Pinecrest Rd in Brandon, is hosting a Sweetheart’s Brunch and High Tea on both February 11 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and February 14 from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Ladies, if your guy makes a reservation then he will receive advice on a special gift to get you as well as a 50 percent-off-one-item coupon for the Tea Cup’s gift shop.
For more information or to make a reservation, call 654-6543.

For a romantic weekend getaway, look no further than Palmer House Bed and Breakfast, located at 2221 Hinton Ranch Road in Lithia. Palmer House offers a Romantic Getaway Special which includes a two night stay in their Suite Romance or Suite Memories room, full breakfast for both days, champagne, flowers, specialty chocolates, a basket of snacks and a candlelight dinner. For more information, call 654-0961 or visit

With a plethora of local gift and restaurant options, each Valentine’s Day gift is sure to be a success.

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