History of Valentine’s Day: Facts, Origin, Meaning

By | 13.02.2016
Each year on February 14th, many people exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special “valentine.” The day of romance we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century, but has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia.

What kind of holiday is Valentine’s Day officially? 

Popular modern sources claim links to unspecified Greco-Roman February holidays alleged to be devoted to fertility and love to St. Valentine’s Day, but prior to Chaucer in the 14th century, there were no links between the Saints named Valentinus and romantic love. 

Who imprisoned Valentine Why was he imprisoned?

Imprisoned Saint Valentine. Saint Valentine was executed on February 14th, 270A.D. He was a priest in Rome who covertly married couples against Emperor Claudius II’s dictate. Claudius had banned marriage because wedded men were unwilling soldiers and he needed to sustain his warrior-class.

How many Valentine cards are sent each year?

15% of U.S. women send themselves flowers onValentine’s Day. 73% of people who buy flowers for Valentine’s Day aremen, while only 27 percent are women. About 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year. That’s the largest seasonal card-sending occasion of the year, next to Christmas. 

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History of Valentine’s Day

Every February 14, across the United States and in other places aroundthe world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones,all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint, andwhere did these traditions come from? Find out about the history of this centuries-old holiday, from ancient Roman rituals to the customs ofVictorian England.

The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–isshrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebratedas a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know ittoday, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with thisancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints namedValentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contendsthat Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiersthan those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men.Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius andcontinued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. WhenValentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put todeath.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed forattempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where theywere often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisonedValentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after hefell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–whovisited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression thatis still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legendsis murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroicand–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middleof February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death orburial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that theChristian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day inthe middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagancelebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, orFebruary 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus,the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulusand Remus.

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Valentines Day Gifts and Gift Ideas

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Romanpriests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus andRemus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by ashe-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide intostrips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets,gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far frombeing fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because itwas believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in theday, according to legend, all the young women in the city would placetheir names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a nameand become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matchesoften ended in marriage.

Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but wasoutlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century,when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was notuntil much later, however, that the day became definitively associatedwith love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in Franceand England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season,which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be aday for romance.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages,though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. Theoldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the BritishLibrary in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed thatKing Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By themiddle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all socialclasses to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, andby 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due toimprovements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy wayfor people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributedto an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the firstmass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother ofthe Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons andcolorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the GreetingCard Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are senteach year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sendingholiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

Valentine’s Day Facts


Did you know that nearly 150 million cards are exchanged eachValentine’s Day? Or that more than 40,000 American are employed atchocolate companies? Explore these and dozens more Valentine’s Day facts about cards, chocolate, flowers and candy, the hallmarks of St.Valentine’s Day.


141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, makingValentine’s Day the second-most popular greeting-card-giving occasion.(This total excludes packaged kids valentines for classroom exchanges.)(Source: Hallmark research)

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Research reveals that more than half of the U.S. populationcelebrates Valentine’s Day by purchasing a greeting card. (Source:Hallmark research)

There are 119 single men (i.e., never married, widowed or divorced)who are in their 20s for every 100 single women of the same ages.Corresponding numbers for the following race and ethnic groups are:

  • Hispanics: 153 men per 100 women
  • Asians (single race): 132 men per 100 women (This ratio is notsignificantly different from that for Hispanics or non-Hispanic whites.)
  • Non-Hispanic whites (single race): 120 men per 100 women
  • Blacks (single race): 92 men per 100 women (The numbers of black men and women in this age group are not significantly different from oneanother.

There are 34 single men (i.e., never married, widowed or divorced) age 65 or older for every 100 single women of the same ages. Corresponding numbers for the following race and ethnic groups are:

  • Hispanics: 38 men per 100 women
  • Non-Hispanic whites (single race): 33 men per 100 women
  • Blacks (single race): 33 men per 100 women
  • Asians (single race): 28 men per 100 women

(Note: None of the ratios for the individual groups differsignificantly from one another nor from the ratio for all people age 65or older.)
904: The number of dating service establishments nationwide as of2002. These establishments, which include Internet dating services,employed nearly 4,300 people and pulled in $489 million in revenues.

2.2 million marriages take place in the United States annually. That breaks down to more than 6,000 a day.
112,185 marriages were performed in Nevada during 2008. So many couples “tie the knot” in the Silver State that it ranked fourth nationally in marriages, even though it’s totalpopulation that year among states was 35th.
The estimated U.S. median ages at first marriage for women and menare 25.9 and 27.6 respectively, in 2008. The age for women rose 4.2years in the last three decades. The age for men at first marriage is up 3.6 years.

Men and women in northeastern states generally have a higher median age at first marriage than the national average. In Massachusetts, for example, women were a median of 27.4 years old and men 29.1 yearsof age at first marriage. States where people typically marry younginclude Utah, where women were a median of 21.9 years and men, 23.9 years.

57% and 60% of American women and men, respectively, are 15 or older and currently married (includes those who are separated).
70%: The percentage of men and women ages 30 to 34 in 2008 who hadbeen married at some point in their lives – either currently orformerly.

4.9 million opposite-sex cohabitating couples maintained householdsin 2005. These couples comprised 4.3 percent of all households.


1,241: The number of locations producing chocolate and cocoa products in 2014. These establishments employed 43,322 people. California led the nation in the number of such establishments with 136, followed by Pennsylvania with 122. (Source:http://www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/cbptotal.html)
515 locations produced nonchocolate confectionary products in 2014. These establishments employed 22,234 people.

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The total value of shipments in 2014 for firms producing chocolateand cocoa products was $13.9 billion. Nonchocolate confectionery product manufacturing, meanwhile, was a $5.7 billion industry.

3,467 Number of confectionery and nut stores in the United States in2014. Often referred to as candy stores, they are among the best sources of sweets for Valentine’s Day.

The per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2015 was 25.7pounds. Candy consumption has actually declined over the last few years; in 1997, each American gobbled or savored more than 27 pounds of candy a year.

The combined wholesale value of domestically produced cut flowers in2015 for all flower-producing operations with $100,000 or more in saleswas $397 million. Among states, California was the leading producer,alone accounting for nearly three-quarters of this amount ($289million).

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The combined wholesale value of domestically produced cut roses in 2015 for all operations with $100,000 or more in sales was $39 million.Among all types of cut flowers, roses were third in receipts ($39 million)to lilies ($76.9 million) and tulips ($39.1 million).

There were 21,667 florists nationwide in 2015. These businesses employed 109,915 people.


There were 28,772 jewelry stores in the United States in 2012.Jewelry stores offer engagement, wedding and other rings to lovers ofall ages. In February 2014, these stores sold $2.6 billion worth of merchandise. (This figure has not been adjusted for seasonal variation,holiday or trading day differences or price changes). The merchandise at these locations could well have been produced at one of the nation’s1,864 jewelry manufacturing establishments. The manufacture of jewelrywas an $9 billion industry in 2014.

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