February 11th, 2014 by Josie

Fun Facts about the History of Valentine’s Day

valentines

It was way back in 1537 when Valentine’s Day became an official holiday, as declared by Henry VIII, the King of England at the time. But have you ever wondered just where the tradition of the day of love actually began?

Where did Valentine’s Day come from?

No one can say for sure where Valentine’s Day originated from, but there’s one theory in particular that captures the hearts of romantics the world over. Way back in the time of the Roman Empire in 270AD, Emperor Claudius II put a ban on men getting married during wartime, as it was his belief that single men made fiercer and more loyal soldiers. Going against this, the Bishop Valentine continued to perform wedding ceremonies – but conducted them in secret! When the truth was unveiled, the bishop was jailed and executed on 14th February. Before his death, he supposedly wrote a love letter to the jailor’s daughter, signing it simply ‘from your Valentine’ – and so begins the tradition of Valentine’s Day!

By the time the middle ages came around, Valentine’s Day had become somewhat of an established tradition among star-crossed lovers. Young men and women would pick names out of a bowl to see who would become their Valentine for the day. Once they had the name, they would wear it pinned to their sleeve for everyone to see – and this is also where the expression ‘wearing your heart on your sleeve’ comes from!

What’s the deal with Valentine’s cards?

One of the first known Valentine’s Day cards was sent back in 1415, from Charles Duke of Orléans to his wife, whilst he was imprisoned in England. The practice steadily grew and by the 19th century, paper Valentine’s cards had become so popular that they began to be mass-produced in factories. These days, it’s estimated that around 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent in the US alone, with 85% of these sent by women.

And why do we give chocolates and flowers?

Just like Valentine’s Day itself, no one knows exactly when the practice of exchanging these little tokens of affection on the day of love began. Rumour has it, the guy we all know as the world’s greatest lover, Casanova, used to feast on chocolates because of their aphrodisiac qualities – so perhaps men around the world followed suit in an attempt to emulate his prowess. What’s more, as recently as the 1800s, doctors would prescribe chocolate to the broken-hearted claiming that it would heal their pain and help them to stop pining over a lost love.

By the late 1800s, Richard Cadbury was making special boxes of chocolates just for Valentine’s Day and these days; more than 35 million boxes of those heart-shaped goodies are sold each February 14th.

What about the flowers?

According to legend, the red rose was the favourite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and we all know that red is the traditional colour of love. So, of course, what better flower is there to celebrate the big day with? In the US alone, approximately 190 million red roses are sent on Valentine’s Day – 73% of these sent by men. Believe it or not, 15% of women admit that they send flowers to themselves!

So there you have it, a little bit of history behind the world’s most romantic day. How will you spend your Valentine’s Day?

Josie is a writer living in London. She enjoys coffee, travelling and writing about the perils of dating.

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