By Chris Furguson
Every February, couples and lovers from all over the world hand chocolates, roses, and cards to each other to express their love for one another. But what of the origins of the holiday itself?
One legend says that St. Valentine was a priest in 3rd century Rome. At the time, Emperor Claudius thought that unmarried men were better soldiers than married ones and forbid young men from marrying. Valentine secretly defied the decree until he was caught and executed. However, the Catholic Church has two other St. Valentines listed amongst their saints, all of whom were martyred.
Another explanation was that the Christian holiday was established to supplant a popular pagan holiday known as Lupercalia. Lupercalia was celebrated on February 15 and was in honor of the Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and the supposed founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
In England and France of the Middle Ages, February 14th was believed to be the beginning of birds’ mating season. This led to a tradition that romance should be celebrated in the middle of February.
Valentine’s Day began to flourish in England to the point where, by the 1700s, it was commonplace for people of all classes to exchange small gifts or handwritten notes to each other. During the Victorian era, however, mass produced cards were popular forms of expressing love as direct expressions of one’s feelings were discouraged.
The tradition continues to this day, with chocolate and roses included as gifts of love or affection.
Did you know?
According to the Greeting Card Association, over 1 billion Valentines cards are sent around the world, making Valentine’s Day the second biggest card giving holiday. In comparison, more than 2.3 billion cards are exchanged during Christmas.
2.2 million marriages take place in the US every year. This translates to roughly 6,025 marriages per day.
In 2005, every man, woman and child in the US consumed 25.7 pounds of candy, a decline from 1997, when every person in the country ate more than 27 lbs.
The per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2005 was 25.7 pounds. 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.
By Chris Furguson