Valentine’s Day, or Saint Valentine’s Day, is both an American holiday and worldwide celebration of love and affection between companions on February 14. This holiday has roots all the way back to the Roman Empire and it is celebrated in many, many countries. On this day, lovers express their feelings for each other by sending flowers and cards, giving candy, and sharing other tokens of their affection. Below we have compiled all the information that you need to know about this holiday, from its deep history to tons of fool-proof gift ideas for your girl or guy! And don’t forgot to take our four fabulous quizzes and visit our Valentine’s Day news updates for the latest scoop.
ABOUT VALENTINE’S DAY
The History of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day began in the time of the Roman Empire. In ancient Rome, February 14 was a holiday to honor Juno, the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew Juno as the Goddess of women and marriage. The next day, February 15, began the Feast of Lupercalia.
While the lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate, one of the young people’s customs was to draw names. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia, the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and picked from a jar by a young man. The pair would then be partners for the duration of the festival. Sometimes the pairing would last an entire year and often, the pair would fall in love and later marry.
And that is where the celebration of love started. The good St. Valentine entered the picture some time later during the rule of Emperor Claudius II of Rome. Still the holiday was not named after the saint until many many years after he died.
Emperor Claudius II of Rome was involved in many bloody campaigns during his rule of the empire from 268 to 270. Because of this, he was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that the reason no one wanted to join was that Roman men did not want to leave their wives or families. As a result, Claudius the Cruel cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome.
The good Saint Valentine was a priest during the days of Claudius II, and he and Saint Marius aided the Christian martyrs and secretly married couples. For this deed, Saint Valentine was apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death by clubs and have his head cut off. Saint Valentine suffered as a martyr in approximately the year 270.
It was the pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome who gave the holiday Valentine’s name when they were seeking to do away with the pagan elements of these feasts by substituting the names of saints for those pagan gods and goddesses. Pope Gelasius I in 496 established the day Saint Valentine’s Day. As Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine’s Day for the celebration of this new feast.
Valentine’s Day Traditions
In Wales, wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14. The most popular decorations on the spoons were hearts, keys, and keyholes. The key decoration was a symbol ultimately meaning ”you unlock my heart” or ”you have the key to my heart.”
During the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to randomly select a valentine. They would then wear the name of their valentine’s on their sleeves for one week. To wear your heart on your sleeve now means that it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling.
In some countries, young women are given a gift of clothing from a young man. If the woman keeps the gift, it means she will marry him.
Some people also used to believe that if a woman saw a robin flying above her on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. A sparrow, on the other hand, meant she would marry a poor man and be very happy. A goldfinch meant she would marry a millionaire.
A love seat is a wide chair that was first made to seat a woman and her wide dress. Later, the love seat had two sections, often in an S-shape. This way, a couple could sit together… but not too close!
In England hundreds of years ago, children would dress up as adults on Valentine’s Day and go singing from home to home. One verse they sang to celebrate the holiday was:
”Good morning to you, valentine;
Curl your locks as I do mine —
Two before and three behind.
Good morning to you, valentine.”
By the eighteenth century, a main tradition of Valentine’s Day was to make a handmade card for your loved one. Also, giving small tokens of affection and gifts was popular at this time. The cards that were made for the holiday were usually covered in lace and ribbon with cupids and hearts drawn on them as well.
By the 1840’s, greeting cards for Valentine’s Day began to be mass produced within the United States. The tradition continues to this day, especially with elementary school children who buy Valentine’s cards to give to all of their classmates. Some teachers even have their students create and decorate their own Valentine’s card box in which classmates put their cards inside.
For more than a century, the makers of Necco Sweethearts Conversation Hearts (or Candy Hearts) have kept alive the tradition of saying ‘I love you’ with candy. Each and every Valentine’s Day, the company creates new messages on the candy hearts that have been a tradition in the United States since the Civil War.