10 Things You Didn’t Know About Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is associated with chocolates and flowers, but this annual celebration has an interesting history.

Here are some surprising facts you probably don’t know about the most romantic day of the year. 

1.  It may have started as a pagan festival

Many historians believe Valentine’s Day has its origins in the Pagan festival known as Lupercalia. This festival was celebrated on the 15th February in ancient Rome in honour of the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus.

2. Valentine’s Day became associated with love in 1300s

February 14th  was named as Valentine’s Day at the end of the 5th century, but the holiday was not associated with love until the Middle Ages. 

3. No one really knows who Valentine’s Day is named after

There were actually two men this day could be named after. One was a priest in Rome in the third century who continued to conduct weddings in defiance of orders preventing soldiers from marrying. The other, according to legend, helped Christians escape from Roman prisons. He is said to have penned the first valentine message while in jail, signed “From your Valentine.”

4. People celebrated differently in the Middle Ages

A popular Valentine’s Day tradition in the Middle Ages involved young women and men drawing names from a bowl to find their Valentine. They would wear the person’s name on their sleeve for the next week so everyone could see. This is how the saying to ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ originated.

5. The tradition of giving flowers began in the 17th century

In the late 17th century giving flowers on Valentine’s Day began after King Charles II of Sweden introduced the tradition in Europe. It became very popular during the Victorian era. 

6. The commercialisation of Valentine’s Day started in the 1840s

In the 1840s an American woman named Esther A. Howland began mass-producing cards made with lace and ribbon. She became known as the ‘Mother of the American Valentine.’

7. More money is spent on jewellery than any other gift

Today Valentine’s Day is a multi-billion dollar industry. People shell out huge amounts on candy, flowers and cards, but spending at jewellery stores almost doubles on the 13th and 14th February. 

8. It is still a day celebrated by true romantics 

It’s common to hear people complain that Valentine’s day has become too commercialised, but many have kept the spirit of romance alive. This is demonstrated in the thousands of letters sent to the Italian city of Verona each year addressed to Juliet (from Romeo and Juliet). Millions of couples also get engaged on this day.

9. Valentine’s Day is celebrated all around the world 

While Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide, different cultures have their own traditions. In Japan, for example, women give chocolate to men, and the quality of the chocolate conveys their true feelings. Men return the favour a month later, on March 14, known as ‘White Day.” 

10. Other notable events on this day

February 14th isn’t just famous for Valentine’s Day. It was on this date in 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell applied for a patent for the telephone. In 1929 penicillin was introduced, changing the course of history. 

As these facts demonstrate, there’s a lot more to Valentine’s Day than hearts and flowers.