February 9, 2024

Valentine’s Day origins hold special meaning across the globe

By Ed Pierce

By tradition, Valentine's Day is celebrated as a day in which people express their love to one another by presenting their loved one with gifts, such as cards, candy, flowers and other symbols of love or affection.

More than 58 million pounds of
chocolates are purchased for
Valentine's Day as gifts every
year worldwide. 
Through the years, the origins of St. Valentine, for whom the day is named, say that he was a Catholic clergyman who was executed for secretly marrying couples in ancient Rome. There are several stories about the origin of February 14 being celebrated as Valentine's Day.

The romantic holiday, according to Brittanica Encyclopedia, originated from the Roman festival of Lupercalia where men and women were paired with each other through a lottery draw. The festival also included rites where women were hit by men, allegedly to boost their fertility. Britannica says by the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced the festival with St. Valentine's Day.

Other versions claim the festival of love is named after a martyred saint called Valentine who was killed by King Claudius II Gothicus. As per other accounts, the holiday was named after St. Valentine who secretly married off couples to spare their husbands from war.

It was only in the mid-16th century that formal Valentine's Day messages appeared.

The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards came into being in Ireland in the 1700s. They reached the United States by mid-1800s. Esther Howland of Massachusetts is thought to have come up with the notion of creating and selling the first Valentine’s Day cards in America during the 1840s.

While greeting cards now bear all kinds of symbols like teddy bears, chocolates and diamonds, back in previous times, Valentines mostly depicted "Cupid," the Roman god of love. But by 1913, St. Valentine's Day was forever changed as Hallmark Cards started mass producing Valentine's Day cards in Kansas City, Missouri.

The day, with its origins in Christianity, is now celebrated world over by people of many religions. With romance all around, many couples also use the special day to propose marriage to each other.

Through the centuries, what began as a Catholic holy day evolved into a day to exchange love messages, and St. Valentine became known as the patron saint of lovers.

That simple expression of love and care for others endures to this very day as one of the highlights of each school year for students is exchanging Valentine cards with their classmates.

Here are some other interesting facts regarding Valentine’s Day:

** As of 2023, about 85 percent of all Valentine’s Day cards sold in the United States are purchased by women.

** More than 73 percent of flower arrangements sold for Valentine’s Day are purchased by men.

** According to the U.S. Postal Service, Valentines Day is the second most popular day for sending a greeting card, trailing only Christmas.

** In 2023, Americans spent almost $26 billion for Valentine's Day gifts.

** Richard Cadbury of England created fancy heart-shaped boxes to boost sales of chocolate candy for Valentine’s Day in 1861.

** A total of 58 million pounds of Valentine’s Day chocolates are purchased worldwide every Valentine’s Day.

** Daniel Chase of the New England Confectionery Company is credited with inventing a press which could print messages onto treats called “Conversation Hearts” in 1866.

** Red roses were established as a Valentine’s Day tradition in the 17th century, when King Charles II of Sweden proclaimed them as the “flowers of love.”

** The most popular recipients of Valentine’s cards each year are schoolteachers, followed in order by children, mothers, parents, wives, and girlfriends.

** Alexander Graham Bell applied for a patent for the telephone, on Valentine's Day in 1876.

** The infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place in a parking garage in Chicago, Illinois on Feb. 14, 1929. Assailants dressed as policemen shot and killed seven members and associates of Chicago's North Side Gang. The killers were never caught but were suspected to have been hired by crime bosses Bugsy Moran and Al Capone to eliminate their rivals.

** Of the 124.6 million families in the United States, it is estimated that about 43 million of them purchase Valentine’s Day flowers.

** In Greece to be awoken by a kiss on Valentine’s Day morning is considered lucky. <

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