Valentine’s Day-An Evolution in the Expression of Love

All throughout the world, romantics are gearing up again for a very special day known as Valentine’s Day, which occurs on February 14. It’s a time when people express special affections for a sweetheart, spouse, classmate, teacher, parent, or any other special person by presenting them with tokens of love. Some of the gifts that are associated with Valentine’s Day are heart-shaped candies, chocolates, teddy bears, flowers, (especially red roses) cards, heart-shaped balloons, small cupids, candle lit dinners or romantic getaways. Jewelry or lingerie is another type of gift that is given to a loved one on this romantic festival.  It is also a very popular day for couples to tie the knot.

 

According to the U.S. Greeting Card Association, Valentine’s Day is the second most popular day next to Christmas for sending greetings cards. They state that approximately one billion Valentine cards are sent each year worldwide. Today, Valentine’s Day has progressed into an international commercial goldmine. It is reported by the market research firm IBIS World that in 2012 sales reached $17.6 billion, and in 2013 Valentine’s Day contributed around $18.6 billion to the global economy. Although, Valentine’s Day has evolved over the ages to the point that retailers feel the love too, its origins are shadowed by speculation and mystery.

 

The origins of Valentine’s Day has many theories associated with it, but one of the most popular stories trace back to the Roman pagan festival Lupercalia that was held on February 15. During the ritual, young men would be paired with women by drawing a woman’s name from a box. Each newly matched couple remained paired until the following year’s celebration. While this ceremonious procedure may have set the groundwork for today’s celebration, it wasn’t until a romantic-at-heart Roman priest by the name of Valentine emerged on the scene.

 

According to historians, the Roman Emperor Claudius II refused to let Roman soldiers marry. He believed that they should remain bachelors forever because their love and devotion should only be reserved for Rome. In defiance of the rule set by Claudius, Valentine performed secret marriage ceremonies. Unfortunately for Valentine, his rebellion against the Emperor’s law landed him in jail, and he was ultimately executed by decapitation on February 14.

 

In this speculative account, Valentine purportedly left the jailor’s daughter a parting love note that was signed “From Your Valentine”. Although, this parting phrase was ostensibly written around 270 A.D., it is still being used in Valentine’s Day messages around the world today. Following his death, Valentine was elevated to the stature of sainthood. Pope Gelasius declared that the date of Valentine’s execution would be named Valentine’s Day in honour of St. Valentine.

 

In the Middle Ages, France and England played an important role in the evolution of today’s depiction of Valentine’s Day. Both countries held the belief that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season. This perception only added to the allure that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.  Additionally, both GeoffreyChaucer and William Shakespeare frequently romanticized this special day in their verses and plays. Chaucer, in particular, wrote a particularly poignant poem entitledThe Parliament of Fowls in 1383. It is considered to be the first poem that makes reference to Valentine’s Day in print.

 

During this same period of time, handmade paper greetings cards of satin and silk began to emerge as the tokens of the day. These keepsakes gained in popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. From Europe, it was just a matter of time before these mementoes were transported to America. As the industrial revolution took hold in the U.S. by ushering in factories and mass production, Hallmark Cards began mass producing Valentine cards in 1913.  The rest is history, and Valentine’s Day took on a life of its own.

 

Because Valentine’s Day is associated with Christianity, it is celebrated in places like the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. However, its popularity as a day for lovers to express their affection for one another has expanded to other countries, such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Scotland and Spain and Taiwan. Each country has its own variation on the theme, but there is one thing that they all share in common. Valentine’s Day is a reminder of love, a day for sharing special feelings and celebrating beautiful relationships. It is the ultimate cherishing of love in all forms.

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