The History of St. Valentine’s Day

After a long few weeks, we have finally waved goodbye to the most dismal month of all, January. February has arrived, and although the wintry weather is still hanging about, spring is on its way – meaning things will slowly but surely start to get a little brighter.

With a new season comes a new holiday, and in February that can mean only one thing – Valentine’s Day is coming up. Couples love it, singletons loathe it, but regardless of your feelings toward the loved-up day we have all come to accept it as a holiday that is celebrated on February 14th each year.

But why do we celebrate it? And just who exactly is St. Valentine?

Although most people are aware of the roots behind holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Halloween, many are unfamiliar with the origins behind Valentine’s Day.

If you don’t know it already, the story behind it will not be what you are expecting to read.

It is thought that Valentine’s Day dates back to Ancient Rome. St. Valentine was a priest in the third century. When the emperor of the time, Claudius II, decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he made it illegal for young men to marry. The priest Valentine saw injustice in this and so he began performing marriages for young lovers in secret.

Sweet, isn’t it?

However, when Valentine was found out, Claudius II immediately ordered that the lawless priest be put to death.

That’s a bit grim.

Despite poor Valentine meeting an untimely end, people celebrated in his honour and as it evolved over the years, St. Valentine’s Day was finally established on February 14th.

Verbal Valentines greetings have been popular since the Middle Ages, however written Valentines didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. Today, the oldest known written Valentine (which is still on exhibit in a British museum) was a poem written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415 while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.

The idea of the infamous “roses are red” poem came about in the 18th century. The original version of it read “the rose is red, the violet’s blue, the honey’s sweet, and so are you” and was found in a collection of nursery rhymes in 1784.

Ever since its beginnings way back when, Valentine’s Day has kept on developing as a romantic day. However, poetry just doesn’t cut it anymore and in the 21st century it’s a commercial success for card shops, florists, chocolatiers and jewellers. According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making it the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas. Men account for 73% of flower sales compared to 28% of women, over $1 billion worth of chocolate will be purchased in the U.S and 43% of millennials surveyed say February 14th is their top day to propose or be proposed to.

So although the origins of Valentine’s Day is not necessarily the reason behind why it’s celebrated in modern times, it is clear to see that it has always been about love and romance. Despite many people dismissing the holiday as nothing more than a marketing ploy nowadays, if you’re celebrating it this year you’re safe in the knowledge that there is a reason behind it.

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