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While some would write off Valentine’s Day as a holiday driven by greeting card companies, the day has an endearing and historic past that truly celebrates how people love and support each other. Learning the history of Valentine’s Day makes the day much more meaningful, and the Valentines Day history facts behind commonly given gifts make them seem all the more appropriate to give.
Much of our history from the third century is speculation based on various documents, but according to legend, the Roman emperor Emperor Claudius II decreed that young men should not be allowed to marry so that they could instead join his army. Saint Valentine, believing in young love, performed secret weddings, which caused him to be imprisoned by a nobleman. While held captive, he healed the man’s blind daughter and converted the entire household to Christianity, sealing his fate. Before being put to death, he wrote a letter to the nobleman’s daughter, signing it “Your Valentine.”
Whether it’s true or not, this story went on to inspire the world and spark romance. According to the history of Valentine’s Day, it was likely first celebrated in the middle of February to mark the day of the saint’s death. Others suppose the church set the date to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, and Pope Gelasius officially established when is Valentine’s Day during the 5th century. However, it wasn’t until the 1300s that the celebration of Saint Valentine on February 14 came to be truly associated with romantic love. The poet Chaucer wrote the lines “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate,” inspiring nobles to write “valentines” to their lovers.
By the 1700s, exchanging cards and letters for Valentine’s Day was already common, and in the 1840s, Esther A. Howland is recognized for selling the first mass-produced valentines in the US, making it easy for friends to give out multiple cards each year. One of the most famous Valentine’s Day history facts is that it’s the second largest card-sending holiday in the US, with an estimated 145 million cards sent each year.
For centuries, societies have linked flowers with different traits and meanings, and according to Greek mythology, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was rushing to save Adonis from death when she pricked her foot on a rosebush, turning its white petals red. The red rose thus came to symbolize romantic love and passion. During the Victorian era, sending bouquets laden with meaning was a popular trend, creating the association between red roses and Valentine’s Day.
Today, Cadbury chocolates are just one of many brands you’ll see being given as gifts during Valentine’s Day, but in Victorian England, Richard Cadbury was the first to develop a smooth, solid chocolate that was for eating, not drinking. One of the Valentine’s Day history facts you might not think of is where the heart-shaped boxes came from. Because Victorian society was enamored with Valentine’s Day, Cadbury seized this opportunity to promote his innovative chocolates by designing heart-shaped boxes with beautiful designs on them.
With its popularity, very few people have to ask “When is Valentines Day?”, but if you don’t know the history of Valentine’s Day, you might not appreciate the sentiments behind the day. While sending cards and buying gifts is a big part of it, the day is about celebrating love no matter what.
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