With approximately 62% of the worlds population celebrating Valentine’s Day, it is no wonder it’s the second highest celebrated holiday in the world. But where did it all start?
Valentine’s Day, or St. Valentine’s Day, can be traced back to the Ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, held from 13th to the 15th of February, to avert evil spirits and purify the city and promote health and fertility. The origin of this festival is debated, however it was definitely celebrated by the time Ancient Rome was founded.
During the late 5th C CE, Pope Gelasius declared the 14th February a day to honour the Christian cleric, Valentine. More than one Valentine existed around that time, but it is assumed that the man whom Valentine’s Day was dedicated to was the one executed for marrying soldiers to their loves, after Claudius II banned the marriage of these men, believing single men made better soldiers.
In 1381 CE, English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer (1340 – 1400CE), composed a 700 line poem for the royal engagement of England’s Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. Tradition was to associate the day with a day of feast. Chaucer chose to associate it with the day believed to be the beginning of bird mating season, Valentine’s Day. And so it goes (line 309-315):
For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,
Of every kinde, that men thynke may;
And that so huge a noyse gan they make,
That erthe and see, and tree, and every lake
So ful was, that unnethe was ther space
For me to stonde, so ful was al the place.
This was the beginning of Valentine’s Day being associated with love and romance.
Valentines Greetings & Gifts
The first written Valentines greeting did not appear until the 15th C CE, when Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote a love poem to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. By the middle of the 18th C CE, small tokens of love or handwritten notes were exchanged between lovers, and from the 19th C CE Valentines cards were mass produced for mailing, instead of the earlier handwritten notes.
Today, Valentine’s Day is a massive consumer driven holiday celebrated by people in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. An estimated 1 billion cards sent, 25 million heart shaped boxes sold, 220 million roses produced, and $2.2 billion worth of jewellery are sold EACH YEAR! The top 3 gifts given each year are candy, flowers, and jewellery. Consumers spend an estimated $13.19 billion dollars PER YEAR on this annual day of romance, with 6 million couples taking the next step (congratulations to all the newly engaged couples out there).
History of Valentine’s Day. 2015. Valentine’s Day – HISTORY.com. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day. [Accessed 13 February 2015].
Valentines Day Statistics 2015. Statistic Brain. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.statisticbrain.com/valentines-day-statistics/. [Accessed 13 February 2015].
Images by Frogtography, 2012