On this day, February 14, in many countries around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from? Want to know about the history of this centuries-old holiday, from ancient Roman rituals to the customs of Victorian England?
Valentine’s Day customs developed in early modern England and spread throughout the Anglosphere in the 19th century. In the later 20th and early 21st centuries, these customs spread to other countries, but their effect has been more limited than those of Halloween, or than aspects of Christmas, (such as Santa Claus).
Due to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in some East Asian countries with Chinese and South Koreans spending the most money on Valentine’s gifts.
Some interesting facts about Valentine’s Day
In 2011, Iran banned Valentine cards, gifts, teddy bears, and other Valentine tokens as part of an Islamic republic backlash against the spread of Western culture. Additionally, some religious activists in India and Pakistan protest Valentine’s Day as a day of shame of lust. They view it as a Western holiday in which Westerners satisfy their “sex thirst.”
The popular medieval folk belief that birds choose their mates on February 14 made doves a favourite symbol for Valentine cards. The dove was sacred to Venus and other love deities and was known for choosing a lifelong mate.
The most popular flower on Valentine’s Day is a single red rose surrounded with baby’s breath. The red rose was the flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
Valentine’s Day is a $14.7 billion industry in the U.S. Americans spend around $277 million on Valentine cards every year, second only to Christmas. Approximately one billion Valentine cards are sent each year around the world. An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent during the Christmas holidays.
A True Love Knot, or Endless Knot of Love, was a very popular Valentine in England and the U.S. in the seventeenth century. As their name implies, these Valentines were drawn as a knot and could be read from any line and still make sense.
Today is Valentine’s Day. Or, as men like to call it, Extortion day. – Jay Leno
Pope Gelasius established Valentine’s Day in A.D. 500 in an attempt to appropriate the ancient pagan Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, into Christianity.
Throughout history, there have been approximately eight St. Valentines. Three of them had special feast days in their honour. The two St. Valentines who most likely inspired Valentine’s Day are Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome, though some scholars speculate they are actually one person.
According to Welsh tradition, a child born on Valentine’s Day would have many lovers. A calf born on Valentine’s Day, however, would be of no use for breeding purposes. If hens were to hatch eggs on Valentine’s Day, they would all turn out rotten.
Teachers receive the most Valentine’s cards, followed by children, mothers, and wives. Children between the ages of 6-10 exchange more than 650 million Valentine cards a year.
The saying “wearing your heart on your sleeve” is from the Middle Ages. Boys at this time would draw names of girls to see who would be their “Valentine” and then wear the name pinned on their sleeve for a week.
Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in the late 1800s
During the 1700s in England, a girl would pin four bay leaves to her pillow and eat a hard-boiled egg, including the shell, on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day. Supposedly, if she dreamed of a boy that night, she would soon marry him. Girls would also write boys’ names on small pieces of paper, cover them with clay, and drop them into the water. When the clay broke, the papers floated to the top. The first name the girls could read would predict whom they would marry.
Both garters and gloves are traditionally popular Valentine tokens. The word “garter” comes from the Old French word garet, meaning “bend in the knee.” And “glove” is derived from the Old English word glof, meaning “palm of the hand.
On Valentine’s Day, many people buy flowers. Different coloured roses have different meanings. Red means love, yellow means friendship, and pink means friendship or sweetheart. Red carnations mean admiration, white carnations mean pure love, red chrysanthemums mean love, forget-me-nots mean true love, primrose means young love, and larkspur means an open heart.
The first recorded Valentine was sent February 1415 by the English duke of Orleans. He sent of love letter to his wife from his jail cell in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt. It is currently on display in the British Museum. Commercially, Valentine cards didn’t appear in England until almost the 1800s, though handmade cards had been popular for some time.
In 2010, 25% of adults bought flowers or plants as a Valentine’s gift. Of these, 60% were men and 40% were women. Men mainly bought flowers for romantic reasons, while women bought flowers for their mothers and friends as well as their sweethearts.
Singles Awareness Day or SAD, is meant as an alternative to Valentine’s Day, the holiday is for single people to celebrate or to commiserate in their single status.
Many believe the X symbol became synonymous with the kiss in medieval times. People who couldn’t write their names signed in front of a witness with an X. The X was then kissed to show their sincerity.
Based on retail statistics, about 3 per cent of pet owners will give Valentine’s Day gifts to their pets.
In 1537, England’s King Henry VII officially declared Feb. 14 the holiday of St. Valentine’s Day.
More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day.
Some Famous folks born on Valentine’s Day
1818: Frederick Douglass, author and activist, celebrated his birthday on Valentine’s Day, not knowing his actual birthdate
1819: Christopher Latham Sholes, inventor of the typewriter and the QWERTY keyboard
Jack Benny 1894 – 1974 American Comedian born as Benjamin Kubelsky in Chicago Illinois.
Jimmy Hoffa 1913 – No one is really sure when he died but was declared legally dead in 1982.
And then of course all the movie and TV actor/actresses:
Freddie Highmore, Simon Pegg, Paul Butcher, Tiffany Thornton, Danai Gurira, Florence Henderson, Kris Aquino and many more ….
Some Famous folks who died on Valentine’s Day
270 – St. Valentine marking Valentine’s Day (some sources say 269, others 273).
1400 – Richard II, king of England (1377-99), murdered at age 33 at Pontefract Castle
1779 – James Cook, British explorer, navigator and cartographer, discovered and explored Australia, Pacific Islands and New Zealand for Britain, killed by Native Hawaiians near Kealakekua, Island of Hawaii at 50
1891 – William Tecumseh Sherman, Union Civil War General, dies at 71
1943 – Dora Gerson, German actress, cabaret singer, and Holocaust victim (b. 1899)
1967 – James Schneider, actor (Keystone Kops), dies at 85
1975 – Pelham G Wodehouse, English/US writer (Piccadilly Jim), dies at 93
1989 – James Bond, American ornithologist (b. 1900). Ian Fleming claims to have seen his name on a book and used it for his spy character in his books.
1999 John Ehrlichman, American presidential adviser (b. 1925)
2003 – Dolly the Sheep, first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell dies young form a progressive lung disease aged 6
On this day in History
Sakichi Toyoda, whose textile machinery company spawned the Toyota Motor Corporation, is born in Japan on February 14, 1867.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, as it is now called, was the culmination of a gang war between arch rivals Al Capone and Bugs Moran.
On February 14, 1929, Fleming introduced his mould by-product called penicillin to cure bacterial infections.
On this day in 1938, the former silent film actress Hedda Hopper pens the first instalment of what would become her tremendously influential gossip column in the Los Angeles Times.
On this day in 1884, future President Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother die, only hours apart.
In a plenary session of the Versailles peace conference on this day in 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson presents the draft of the covenant for the League of Nations prepared by a League commission that had been established two weeks earlier.
1848 James Polk becomes the first U.S. President to be photographed in office by Matthew Brady.
1912 Arizona becomes the 48th state in the Union.
1939 Germany launches the battleship Bismarck.
1965 Malcolm X’s home is firebombed. No injuries are reported.
1962 First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy gives a tour of the White House shown on Television which 3 out of 4 Americans watch on TV.
1920 : The League of Women Voters is founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in Chicago during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
1974 : Soviet authorities have formally charged Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn with treason one day after expelling him from the country and revoking his Russian citizenship.
2006 : MPs (Member’s of Parliament) have voted to ban smoking from all pubs and private members’ clubs in England.
2013 : Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee, a.k.a. “the Bladerunner” who had recently competed in both the Olympics and Paralympics as a runner, was arrested after shooting and killing his model/actress girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The original conviction of Culpable Homicide was overturned on appeal and he is serving a 5 year prison sentence for murder.