Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and there’s so much history to this holiday dedicated to love. Learn about how the holiday started and how it has evolved to what it is today.
1 St. Valentine was more than 1 person
According to History.com, there are at least two men named Valentine who could have inspired the holiday, including one Valentine who was a priest in 3rd century Rome. According to the story, this Valentine defied Emperor Claudius II’s ban on marriage (he thought it distracted young soldiers), illegally marrying couples in the spirit of love until he was caught and sentenced to death.
Another legend suggests Valentine was killed for attempting to help Christians escape prison in Rome, and he actually sent the first “valentine” message himself while imprisoned, writing a letter signed “From your Valentine.”
2 From declaration to implementation
Roman Pope Gelasius officially declared Feb. 14 “St. Valentine’s Day” near the end of the 5th century. However, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages in the 1300s the holiday became synonymous with love and romance. This tradition first started from the common belief in France and England that birds started their mating season Feb. 14.
3 A century later came the 1st Valentine
The oldest record of a valentine being sent, according to History.com, was a poem written by a French medieval duke named Charles to his wife in 1415. Charles penned the note at age 21 while imprisoned in the Tower of London. A known line from the poem reads, “I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine.”
4 Americans send more than 100 million cards per year
The Valentine’s Day expert Hallmark reports 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged every Feb. 14 (and this doesn’t even include the little Valentine’s kids hand out to their classmates). This makes Valentine’s Day the second biggest holiday for exchanging greeting cards after Christmas.
5 A day of celebration and (6 million) engagements
Many Latin American countries know the holiday as “el día de los enamorados” (day of lovers) or “día del amor y la amistad” (day of love and friendship). Same as in America, couples exchange flowers and chocolate on this day. But the holiday also is geared toward showing gratitude to friends.
Valentine’s Day is one of the popular days to pop the question, with HuffPost reporting as many as 6 million couples getting engaged Feb. 14.