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Sunday February 17, 2013 09:29:43 AM

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.


According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.   


While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'Christianise' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goat hide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.


Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance.


The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, can be viewed today at the British Museum in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.   


While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'Christianise' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goat hide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.


Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance.


The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, can be viewed today at the British Museum in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.  

Valentine Trivia

  • 2nd Highest Card Sending Holiday. The greeting card association estimates that approximately one billion valentine's are sent annually world-wide, making it the second highest card sending holiday, behind Christmas.
  • Valentine's Day Cards. Valentine's Day is not just for lovers anymore. More than 190 Valentine's Day cards are bought every year, including cards for friends, family, and lovers. If you add in the Valentine's that children exchange in class, that number increases to over 1 billion Valentine's per year.
  • Married Valentine's. During the mid-17th century, even married folk took a Valentine and that person was not always their legal significant other.
  • Meaning of the Word Valentine. The name Valentine comes from the Latin word valor, meaning worthy.
  • Name for Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day was named for two men, both Christian martyrs named Valentine who were associated with romantic love in the middle ages.
  • Official Holiday. St. Valentine's Day was declared an official holiday in 1537 when England's King Henry VIII declared it for the first time.
  • Unmarried Valentine's. In the Middle Ages, people believed that the first unmarried person of the opposite sex that they met on the morning of Valentine's Day was the person they were destined to marry.
  • Unusual Foods. In Medieval times, girls ate unusual foods on St Valentine's Day to make them dream of their future husband.
  • Valentine Birds. February 14th was long associated with fertility and love even before St. Valentine lived. It was the day that birds traditionally chose their mates.
  • Valentine Celtic Wooden Spoons. The ancient celtic tradition of giving hand carved wooden love spoons as Valentine's gifts began in Wales. Often, hearts, keys, and keyholes, symbolizing that the receiver unlocked the giver's heart, were carved as decoration on the spoon. Here are some samples of celtic wooden spoons.
  • Valentine Love Messages. Elaborate handmade love messages, cards and gifts for Valentine's Day became popular during the 17th century.
  • Valentine Pagan Fertility Festival. The Romans introduced a pagan fertility festival in England that was held every February 14th. After the Romans left the country, Pop Gelsius, who established St. Valentine's Day as a celebration of love in 496 A.D, abolished the pagan festival.
  • Valentine Robins Overhead. It was believed that if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it meant she would marry a sailor.
  • Valentine's Day Gift Spending. Consumers spend an average of over $75 on Valentine's Day gifts, the most popular being chocolates, food, wine, and flowers.
  • Women Card Buyers. The greeting card association estimates that 85% of all Valentine cards are purchased by women.