Every February 14, across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from? Thinking about this as we approach Valentines weekend, I decided to get the skinny on this centuries-old holiday of love.
There are various theories on the origin of Valentine's Day, but the most popular dates back to the time of the Roman Empire during the reign of Claudius II, 270 AD. Claudius didn't want men to marry young couples at wartime because he believed men who were single made better soldiers. Bishop Valentine went against his wishes and performed secret wedding ceremonies. For this, Valentine was jailed and then executed by order of the Emperor on February 14. While in jail, he wrote a love note to the jailor's daughter signing it, "From your Valentine." ‘Sound familiar?
Some more interesting tidbits about the day of LOVE:
In 1537, England's King Henry VII officially declared February 14th the holiday of St. Valentine's Day.
Many believe the 'X' symbol became synonymous with the kiss in medieval times. People who couldn't write their names signed in front of a witness with an 'X.' The 'X' was then kissed to show their sincerity.
Physicians of the 1800's commonly advised their patients to eat chocolate to calm their pining for lost love.
Every Valentine's Day, the Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare's lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet.
About 3% of pet owners will give Valentine's Day gifts to their pets.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)