The origins of St Valentine’s Day are rooted in the history of the Roman Empire. It was there believed that single men are the best soldiers, so they were not allowed to get married. It is said that a Roman priest called Valentine performed secret Christian weddings for them. When the ruler found out about what he was doing, Valentine was quickly arrested and sentenced to death. The legend says that the night before his death, on February 14th, the woman he loved received the last note from him signed ‘Your Valentine.’ This is why nowadays people send each other Valentine cards signed in the same way, which became a symbol of somebody who is in love.
The holiday of all lovers is also often associated with another festival – Lupercalia. This pagan fertility holiday used to be celebrated on February 15 long before Christ. The celebration considered mainly young people of marriageable age. When people were converted to Christianity, this pagan festival was merged with Valentine’s Day. Some elements of Lupercalia remain observed until now, so February 14 is in some way a combination of those two holidays.
Even though the story of Saint Valentine is very romantic, it only became associated with love in the 14th century, after it was mentioned in an English poem Parlement of Foules. In Britain Valentine’s day started to be observed in the 17th century. Lovers started to give each other gifts in secret on Valentine’s Day then. Flowers also started to be the symbol of the day – mainly red roses representing the blood of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Yellow and white roses are given to friends or family members. In some areas of Great Britain, however, Valentine’s Day gifts used to have different interesting forms. In Wales, for example, lovers used to give each other wooden spoons of different shapes.
Nowadays, the most popular Valentine’s Day gifts include homemade sweets, for example a heart-shaped cake. Teddy bears and other soft toys are also welcome, but flowers are a must. Surveys show that people in the United Kingdom can annually spend almost half a billion pounds on Valentine’s Day gifts. It is indeed an important observance for the marketing. Restaurants are often full on February 14 evening. It is also still quite popular to send anonymous valentines and post confessions of love in newspapers. Many people decide to propose on Valentine’s Day.
Did you know?
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in Parlement of Foules that on Valentine’s Day birds choose their own pairs. Because of the poem, in some areas of the United Kingdom the holiday is strongly associated with birds. It is even called a day of bird weddings. It is sometimes believed that if a maiden saw a robin on that day, she should be married to a sailor; if it would be a sparrow, her husband would have to be a poor peasant, but she would be very happy with him; and if she saw a goldfinch, her spouse would be rich. Other British young women often wake up early in the morning on February 14, stand near the window and look at the people on the street. It is believed that the first man they see is meant for them.
We asks for your consent to use your personal data
Personalised ads and content, ad and content measurement, audience insights and product development
Store and/or access information on a device
Your personal data will be processed and information from your device (cookies, unique identifiers, and other device data) may be stored by, accessed by and shared with third party vendors, or used specifically by this site. Some vendors may process your personal data on the basis of legitimate interest, which you can object to by managing your options below.