Every year, on February 14, people around the world celebrate romantic love. The now-traditional celebration includes gift-giving, card-sending, candy-eating and, of course, lovemaking. But how much do people still actually know about Valentine’s Day?
Here are some facts about Valentine’s Day you might not have known:
1. Let’s Eat!
Valentine’s Day is a traditional feast day! It started in the 3rd or 4th century AD in honour of two early Christian saints named Valentinus. It didn’t become widely associated with romantic love until the 14th century.
The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, traditionally held in mid-February, had an important role in promoting fertility. The rituals would be considered barbaric today: noble young men ran naked around town, hitting women who believed that this would help them conceive.
3. Saint Valentine of Rome
In ancient times, the name “Valentine” or “Valentinus” was common. Many Christian martyrs were named Valentine, but one in particular lent the holiday its romantic nature. Saint Valentine of Rome is famous for his imprisonment; he officiated weddings for soldiers at a time when soldiers were forbidden from getting married.
4. Unlocking the Heart… And the Brain!
Valentine’s Day keys are a traditional gift in Europe. They symbolize an invitation to “unlock the giver’s heart”. However, they also have a sad purpose; epilepsy is widely known as “Saint Valentine’s Malady”, and the same keys are often given to children to ward off the condition.
Mid-February was once believed to be the start of birds’ mating seasons. This may have contributed to the association of Saint Valentine’s Day with romantic love, as well as to the expression “lovebirds”.
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, William Shakespeare helped popularize Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday by mentioning it in his plays. First in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then in Hamlet, Shakespeare introduced the public to the idea that if two single people meet on the morning of February 14th, they’ll likely fall in love.
7. Roses are Red…
The famous rhyme is quite old indeed… Its earliest known version is in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590): “She bath'd with roses red, and violets blew, / And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.”
An estimated one BILLION cards are sent on Valentine’s Day each year, second only to Christmas! Mass production of cards started in the early 20th century, but the tradition of writing love letters for Valentine’s Day goes back much farther, possibly to the 15th century.
For the celibates out there, a celebration exists just for them! It’s called Singles Awareness Day (SAD) and aims to provide support. Valentine’s Day can be depressing if you’re single, and knowing there are other people you can talk to helps.