Valentine’s Day is named after the patron saint, St. Valentine. But we don’t exactly know which one! There are at least two men named Valentine that could've inspired the holiday. As the legend goes, this Valentine defied Emperor Claudius II's ban of soldiers entering marriage, illegally marrying couples in the spirit of love until he was caught and sentenced to death.
Another story suggests that Valentine was killed for attempting to help Christians escape prison in Rome He supposedly sent the first "valentine" message while imprisoned, writing a letter signed "From your Valentine."
Many historians believe that Valentine’s Day commemorates the death of St. Valentine on February 14. However, there is another theory that the holiday originates to an ancient Roman Pagan fertility festival called “Lupercalia”, which was celebrated on February 15. The day was celebrated by sacrificing animals and smacking women with animal hides, a practice that was believed to encourage fertility.
The exchange of cards and love letters was common practice in England during the 17th century. Esther, residing in America at the time, received such a correspondence and saw the potential for creating a business in the States. She put together a handful of samples for her brother to take on a business trip, who later returned with over $5,000 worth of orders. Esther started the New England Valentine Company and was known for her elaborate and detailed Valentine cards.
According to the National Retail Foundation, Americans spent more than $27 billion on Valentine's Day in 2020. The record amount was 32.36% up on the $20.7 billion they spent in 2019. People also expected to spend an average of approximately $196 for Valentine's Day, with men spending around $291 compared to women spending $106.
In many Latin American countries, the holiday is known as el día de los enamorados (day of lovers) or día del amor y la amistad (day of love and friendship). While flowers and chocolates are commonly exchanged by couples, the focus of the holiday also includes showing gratitude to friends!
There are many ideas as to the origin of the symbol that is universally known as a heart. Some believe that the heart symbol, or pictogram, is derived from the shape of ivy leaves, which are associated with fidelity. Others believe that it’s modeled after human breasts or buttocks. Most recently, scholars theorize that the root of the symbol originates from writings of Galen and Aristotle, who described the heart as having three chambers with a dent in the middle.
In the 1700s, women living in rural England would pin 5 bay leaves to their pillow – one in the center and one in each of the four corners. They would do this on the night of February 13th, in hopes of having sweet dreams about their future husbands.
“Vinegar valentines” were popular during the Victorian Era and into the 20th century. They were sent anonymously to individuals as an insult and as a way to stop unwanted attention from certain suitors.