Every year on February 14th, sweethearts and lovers all across the globe celebrate Valentine’s Day. But is this a recent celebration or has it been going on for years? You’ll be interested to know that yes, Valentine’s Day has been a celebration for centuries, although never quite as wrapped up in retail spending as it is today.
Valentine’s Day Through the Ages
Lupercalia was a pagan fertility festival, celebrated in ancient Rome on the 13th, 14th and 15th of February. Not quite the kind of celebration we participate in today, it involved young Roman men stripping down to their birthday suits, and using strips of goat or dog skin to whip the behinds of young Roman women, in order to improve fertility. A novel idea, not sure whether it actually worked though.
Around AD 197
Valentine of Terni, a Christian, was martyred during the reign of Emperor Aurelian, but very little is known of his life. It is known that he was made Bishop of Interamna in AD 197, and met his end shortly after. It is said that he was imprisoned, tortured and then beheaded for his Christian beliefs. It was later added that he died on February 14, but this is thought to be just convenient conjecture.
Around AD 289
Valentine of Rome, another Christian, was martyred during the reign of Emperor Claudius. He was a priest in the city, and it is said that he was arrested for helping prisoners. During his imprisonment he reformed his jailer by giving his daughter back her sight. A later tale tells of the priests love for the daughter, and he sent her a note signed “From your Valentine”.
Another unlikely folklore version tells of Claudius banning young men from getting married, because he thought this would make them better soldiers. Valentine was known for secretly carrying out marriages, and subsequently arrested. Like previous tales, Valentine of Rome is said to have died on February 14th.
Around AD 496
Gelasius, the Pope of the time, announced that 14th February would be a Christian feast day, St Valentine’s Day. Lupercalia was still very popular at this time, and it is thought that this was the church’s attempt at jumping on the bandwagon.
Geoffrey Chaucer penned a poem, that is thought to be the first time Valentine’s Day was linked to romance. It was written to celebrate Richard II of England’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia. One line “For this was on St Valentine’s Day/ When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate” was the link, but it is thought that it actually referred to 2nd May.
A court was opened in Paris on St Valentine’s Day 1400, known as the High Court of love. It was opened to deal with affairs of the heart: marriage contracts, divorces, spouses that were being unfaithful, and those who had been beaten. A few years after this, the Duke of Orleans, Charles, wrote the very first recorded Valentine’s note. He wrote it while enjoying the facilities in the Tower of London, after he was captured at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
This is when William Shakespeare brings the idea of Valentine’s Day into popular consciousness, by mentioning it in a lament spoken by Ophelia, in the Shakespearian play Hamlet. The lines are as follows:
“To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.”
Middle of the 18th Century
A popular pastime for sweethearts at this time was the exchanging of love-notes, a fore-runner to the Valentine’s cards of today. These early Valentine’s messages were made using lace and paper. 1797 saw the publication of “The Young Man’s Valentine Writer”, a useful compilation of romantic rhymes and messages. At this time, postal services were becoming more affordable for the common man, making the sending of an anonymous Valentine’s Day card possible. Over the following years the popularity of sending Valentine’s cards meant that mass-production was started, early 19th century, to coin in on the trend.
The Valentine’s tradition made its way across the Atlantic when a lady called Esther Howland started producing her own versions, using a new material, which made the cards much cheaper, paper lace.
All you cynics out there might think that was the end of the true meaning of Valentine’s, when Hallmark built, accessorised and jumped on their very own Valentine’s bandwagon. They reinvented this romantic occasion by covering it in sugar-coated sweetness, and encouraging star crossed lovers to spend all their spare cash, on buying one of their Hallmark Valentine’s cards, and coming up with a whole host of Valentine’s gift ideas. It has joined a number of other so called Hallmark Holidays that include Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the recently introduced Grandparents Day.
Not a very romantic link but the St Valentine’s Day Massacre forms a vital part of the history of St Valentine’s Day. It was a rather bloody and brutal attack, that was thought to have been ordered by Al Capone. Five notorious Chicago gangsters were lined up and viciously murdered with the ubiquitous gangster machine gun.
The importance of this day of romance carries on with the sales of chocolate, flowers and cards taking a sizeable jump on and around February 14th. The diamond industry obviously saw a chance for profit, and introduced and marketed the giving of jewellery as an excellent Valentine’s gifts idea. Needless to say this “tradition” quickly took off.
There you have it. The history that has turned a pagan celebration into the money spinning, retail dream that it is today.
Amazing Facts and Figures Relating to Valentine’s Day
Thanks to the statistic gathering of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, and a Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, we’ve got a few surprising statistics:
- The average annual spending for Valentine’s Day is a whopping $13.19 billion
- 180 million Valentine’s cards are exchanged every year
- 196 million roses are produced annually on average, specifically with Valentine’s Day in mind
- 85% of Valentine’s cards are bought by the fairer sex
- 73% of flowers are bought by men
- 14% of women send themselves flowers – a bit of a sad fact for Valentine’s Day
- The average spend for a Valentine’s gift and card is $116.21
- It’s actually only 61.8% of consumers that celebrate Valentine’s Day
- For all you men out there thinking about buying a Valentine’s gift for her – more than half of women surveyed said they would ditch their man if he didn’t make an effort for Valentine’s Day
- On average 11,000 children are conceived on this day for lovers – not surprising really
And if you’re wondering what to buy for your beloved, let’s look at the figures for the most popular Valentine’s gift ideas:
- 47.5% – Candy
- 34.3% – Flowers
- 52.1% – Cards
- 17.3% – Jewellery
- 34.6% – Eating Out
- 14.4% – Clothing
- 12.6% – Gift Cards
- 11.2% – Other Gifts
Some Inspiration if You’ve Left Your Valentine’s Gift till the Last Minute
We’d always advise any would be Valentine’s gift hunters to start the search for an ultimate Valentine’s gift nice and early. However it’s not always possible, because there are often other things that get in the way. For those of you who are a bit pushed for time, or think that you might find yourself in this boat in the future, let’s give you some inspiring and unique ideas. They won’t cost you a fortune, and hopefully you’ll have what’s needed somewhere round the house.
Send a Love Note
Not really very original, because couples have been doing it for centuries, but never the less a very romantic Valentine’s gift idea, for him or for her. Tell your other half what things you love about them, and recall some special memories, or why not try out your skills as a love poet?
Say “I Love You” in a Picture Frame
There are plenty of sites on the internet where you can download a printable message. Personalise it with some of your own sweet words, and present it in an attractive picture frame.
Something Fun for Everyday of the Week
A fun Valentine’s gift idea for him is a series of coupons, each featuring something fun that your husband or boyfriend can ask you for during the week. It might be breakfast in bed one day, washing his car, watching the latest blockbuster – get the picture?
Personalise a Candle
You’ve probably got a few white candles laying around waiting for the next powercut. Personalise a couple of them by carving your sweethearts initials, and adding some glitter for a creative Valentine’s gift.
Cook up a Valentine’s Gift
Bake up a storm this Valentine’s by baking pretzels in the shape of a heart, cookies cut into a heart shape, or a chocoholics dream Valentine’s cake. If baking isn’t your thing, then why not just cook something special – such as a recreation of your first meal together. If you’re not normally the one who does the cooking, any culinary efforts are sure to be well received.
How About a Relaxing Massage?
You might not be an accomplished masseur, but a relaxing neck massage is a great way to relax your partner. If you really aren’t confident they see if any of your local spa treatment centres have an opening for Valentine’s Day.
Say I Love You in 31 Different Ways
Surprise your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend or partner, by telling them that you love them several different ways. These three little words can mean so much and everyone loves to hear them. But how many people know how to say “I Love You”, 31 different ways? Why not text these 3 words, in a different language, over the course of the year?
- Albanian – Te dua
- Armenian – Yes kez sirumem
- Bulgarian – Obicham te
- Catalan – T’estimo
- Chinese (Mandarin) – Wo ai ni
- Croatian – Volim te
- Czech – Miluji te
- Danish – Jeg Elsker Dig
- Dutch – Ik hou van jou
- Esperanto – Mi amas vin
- Filipino – Mahal kita
- French – Je t’aime
- Gaelic – Ta gra agam ort
- German – Ich liebe dich
- Greek – S’agapo
- Hawaiian – Aloha Au Ia`oe
- Hindi – Hum Tumhe Pyar Karte hae
- Hungarian – Szeretlek
- Icelandic – Eg elska tig
- Indonesian – Saya cinta padamu
- Irish – Taim i’ ngra leat
- Italian – Ti amo
- Lebanese – Bahibak
- Maltese – Inhobbok
- Moroccan – Ana moajaba bik
- Persian – Doo-set daaram
- Portuguese – Eu te amo
- Russian – Ya tebya liubliu
- Spanish – Te quiero / Te amo
- Swedish – Jag alskar dig
- Tahitian – Ua Here Vau Ia Oe
This list just touches the tip of the iceberg, there are tens more ways to say those 3 special words, enough to say it more than 100 times a year.
Try a Random Act of Kindness
Valentine’s Day is not just about spending truck loads of money, and showering your loved one with hoards of gifts. Try something a little different this year for Valentine’s, and may be even consider carrying it on throughout the year. Let’s look at some Valentine’s ideas that are less of a physical gift, and more like something you can do with or for each other.
- Surprise them with breakfast in bed
- Do the vacuuming and save them from this boring chore, even if it’s only for a day
- Surprise them with a massage, after a long day at work
- Run a bath, and surround it with aromatic candles
- Have a beer chilled in the fridge for when he gets home
- Baking their favourite cake
- Coming home at lunch time, and giving your wife a bunch of flowers
For all you star crossed lovers out there, in the words of the greatest Elvis:
“Wise men say, only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you”. Celebrate this Valentine’s with someone you love, and cherish every moment you spend together.