The history of Valentine’s Day

The history of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery. It’s very difficult to find out the true origins of the celebration, or indeed its patron saint. What we do know is that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, with a variety of different festivals and celebrations held during this month throughout history.

Valentine’s Day theories

Many of the stories surrounding the history of Valentine’s Day contains aspects of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. In the pre-Christian era, the 13-15th February was known as Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival, which is seen to be the basis for love-related celebrations during the month of February. Another story, seen by many as unlikely, features a Christian, Valentine of Rome, who was said to have been killed by Emperor Claudius for secretly carrying out weddings after the Emperor had banned them.

The 14th February is thought to have been deemed St Valentine’s Day circa AD 496, by the then Pope Gelasius. From then, Valentine’s Day pops up at various points in history; from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules novel to cropping up in Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

Valentine’s in the UK

This meant that Valentine’s Day played a part in the UK from around the 17th century. It is thought that the trend for sending love notes and cards on Valentine’s Day started around the mid 18th century, with early offerings made from delicate lace and paper adorned with loving messages and rhymes. The early 19th century saw cards beginning to be mass produced, with cheap postal costs meaning that the tradition of anonymous Valentine’s had begun. In 1913, Hallmark Cards produced their first Valentine’s Day card.

Since then, Valentine’s Day has grown as a commercial holiday. During the 80’s the jewellery industry got involved, promoting the holiday as a time for giving jewellery – a theory that has stuck to this day. Aside from jewellery and diamonds, traditional Valentine’s gifts became flowers, chocolates and teddy bears – prompting shops to be chock-full of heart-adorned gifts for much of the early portion of the year.

Modern day Valentine’s

Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, it is estimated that 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year. This makes Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year – after Christmas, which still leads the pack by a large margin. In 2013, it was estimated that Britons spent £978 million on Valentine’s Day gifts, weekends away or going out, a 10% increase on the previous year.

The study found that men spend more than women for Valentine’s Day celebrations, with the three most popular gifts purchased by men being flowers, chocolates and perfume. Women typically buy their partner chocolates, clothing, or a game for a console – taking a slightly different view!

What do you think the perfect Valentine’s Day gift is? Have you ever received a terrible present? Let us know in the comments section below, we’d love to hear from you! In the meantime, why not take a peek at our range of Valentine’s Day hampers?


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