The Origin of Valentine’s Day

Dasha Wright, Staff Writer

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Valentine’s Day is celebrated every February 14. Nobody has exactly pinpointed the exact origin of this holiday. In Rome men used to hit on women by actually hitting them. From February 13-15, Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia (an annual festival to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility). During the festival men sacrificed a goat and dog, and then whipped women with hides of the animals they had just killed. The Romans believed that doing all of this made them fertile. Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity but, at the end of the 5 th century A.D., was outlawed, as it was deemed “un-Christian.” That was when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day.

Normans, a race of people who lived in France, celebrated Galatin’ss Day. Galatin meant “lover of women.” As years went by the holiday started to get more and more loving. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and 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 a day for romance.

Chaucer, better known as the Father of English Literature, and William Shakespeare started romanticizing their work, causing it to become more and more popular in Britain and throughout Europe. To show appreciation to one another, people made handmade cards. By the middle of the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. Eventually, the tradition of exchanging cards had made its way to the New World. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s Esther A. Howland is known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” she made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.

The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century, and in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Missouri, began mass producing Valentines. The oldest known valentine in existence today was a poem written in 1415 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.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year. Approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas. An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.

Today Valentine’s Day is celebrated in varied ways. Many will break the bank buying jewelry and flowers for their loved ones. Others will celebrate the following day in a SAD (Single Awareness Day) way, dining alone or with other single friends and binging on self-gifted chocolates. Statistics show that the total spending for this holiday is expected to top $18.2 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). That’s an average of $136.57 per person. Jewelry is the most popular Valentine’s Day gift: 20% of consumers are expected to buy jewelry, spending a total of $4.3 billion, the NRF said. Loved ones are also expected to spend $2 billion on flowers. The most popular Valentine’ss Day flowers are, naturally, roses; 250 million roses are produced for the holiday, the Society of American Florists said. About $1.7 billion is spent on candy alone, says NRF.

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