Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages. In the US the first commercial Valentine’s Day cards were created in the 1840s.  February 14th has come to mean red hearts, candy, flowers and gifts all in the name of St. Valentine. But who was Saint Valentine?

Who Was St. Valentine?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different martyred saints named Valentine. One of them, a priest in third century Rome, defied Emperor Claudius’ decree outlawing marriage for young men and continued to perform secret marriages. When his actions were discovered he was put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine was killed for trying to help Christians escape from the harsh Roman prisons.

In another legend Valentine sent the first “valentine” message to himself. In prison he fell in love with his jailor’s daughter. Before his death, legend says he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine.” Whatever the story, they all emphasize Valentine’s sympathetic, heroic, and romantic appeal.

Why February?

Some think Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate Valentine’s death around 270 A.D.  Others think the Christian church decided to celebrate Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an attempt to “christianize” the pagan Lupercalia, known as the beginning of spring festival.

British Valentine’s Day celebrations started around the seventeenth century. By mid eighteenth century all social classes exchanged tokens of affection or handwritten notes. Americans probably began exchanging handmade valentines in the early 1700s and mass-produced valentines in the 1840s.

Valentine’s Greetings

Women buy about 85% of the estimated one billion Valentine cards sent each year. Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the US, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

Over 50% of all Valentine’s Day cards are bought in the six days before the holiday (hedging bets?) and more than half of the people in the US celebrate Valentine’s Day by buying a card.

Teachers get the most Valentine’s Day cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, then sweethearts. Children from 6 to 10 exchange more than 650 million Valentine’s cards with their teachers, classmates, and family.

And Flowers

110 million roses, mostly red, are sold and delivered within the three day period around Valentine’s Day. 60% of American roses come from California but the majority of the roses sold on Valentine’s Day are imported, mostly from South America.

15% of American women send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day although 73% of the people who buy Valentine’s Day flowers are men.

Happy Valentine’s Day


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