Far from today’s flowers, jewelry & romance, Valentine’s Day history includes much darker topics, including beheadings, martyred saints, and pagan rituals. While the exact origins of Valentine’s Day remain murky, some historians consider the Ancient Roman feast Lupercalia, held from February 13 to 15, the holiday’s earliest iteration. During the festivities, Roman priests sacrificed a goat and a dog, and whipped women in the belief that it would make them more fertile. The ritual also included a matchmaking session, with bachelors selecting the names of their “sweethearts” from an urn.
Ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as the First Feast Day of Saint Valentine. Around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day. Galatin meant “lover of women.” This celebration may have been confused with St. Valentine’s Day at some point.
The Day Gets Sweeter
Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized Valentine’s Day in their works, and the day started to gain popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. In the 1375 poem “Parliament of Foules,” Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” Handmade paper cards became the tokens-du-jour in the Middle Ages. The oldest known Valentine dates back to 1415, sent by an imprisoned Duke to his wife.
A Hallmark Holiday
As Valentine’s Day made it’s way to America, the industrial revolution was underway. Factory-made cards were introduced in the 19th century. In 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines, and the commercial Valentine’s Holiday as we know it was born. The holiday is not losing momentum either — Valentine’s Day sales reached an all-time high of $19.7 billion in 2016. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.
Not Only For Lovers
Valentine’s Day is not only about couples anymore. Half of the American population identifies as single, and of these people, a quarter say they plan to do something for Valentine’s Day. On average, a single man will spend $71 during the holiday and a single woman will spend $40. In fact, some studies show that more people intend to buy gifts for friends than for significant others this year. And many people plan to spend money on their pets as well. In 2016, a reported 19 percent of people bought Valentine’s Day gifts for their furry friends for a total of $681 million.
Don’t Worry Though, Romance Is Not Dead
Fifty percent of marriage proposals happen on Valentine’s Day, and on the search for engagement rings peaks during the first seven days of February. In 2016, American consumers spent $4.5 billion on jewelry for Valentine’s Day. Heart shaped earrings or pendants, diamond jewelry, rubies or pink sapphire – there are jewelry gifts in every price range. See our Valentine’s Day Jewelry Gift Guidelines for more.
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