Each year millions of children will hang collection boxes on their desks and give each other cards; men will rush frantically to local flower shops to pick the last remaining roses and women will spend the day fantasizing about what romantic escapade they will embark upon. The tradition of giving tokens of affection on February 14 may seem like a well planned marketing scheme, but actually its origins date back more than 2,000 years and are steeped in mystery.
According to research done by the History Channel there are a few stories that relate to Saint Valentine, with the Catholic Church recognizing at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus.
The centralizing theme with all of the saints and their stories revolves around a sacrifice for love.
One legend describes Valentine as a priest during the third century in Rome who defied the Emperors decree banning marriage.
The ban was ordered because Emperor Claudius II felt that single men made better soldiers, and when Valentine's secret marriages were discovered, he was put to death.
A second popular tale piggybacks with the first and suggests that Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter while in prison for the afore-mentioned crime.
According to theholidayspot.com Valentine possessed saintly abilities, which allowed him to heal people and he used these powers to heal the daughter who was blind.
Before Valentine was executed, he reportedly wrote a note to the daughter, which was signed "From your Valentine."
His execution was said to have taken place on February 14, 270 AD. Valentine was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion and the date of his death became a day for all lovers.
A more controversial idea behind the origins of Valentine's Day deals with the conversion of pagans and the power of the Christian Church.
The History Channel reports that the decision to celebrate Valentines Day in the middle of February was an effort to Christianize the pagan's Lupercalia festival.
The festival, which celebrates the official beginning of spring, was a time for purification. Romans cleaned their houses and sprinkled salt and spelt, a type of wheat, throughout their homes.
"Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus."
According to theholidayspot.com, "in 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, February 14. He proclaimed February 14 to be the feast day in honor of Saint Valentine."
As with most traditions they sometimes tend to change over the years, and if the legends are true then Valentines Day has had plenty of time change.
Did you know:
- According to the Nielsen Company, more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy will be sold during Valentine's week. By comparison, nearly 90 million pounds of chocolate candy is sold during Halloween week.
- 85% of all Valentine cards are bought by women.
- 73% of flowers are bought by men, and only 27% by women.
- 15% of Americans send flowers to themselves on Valentine's Day.
- In Japan, February 14 is a day when women buy gifts for their men.
- Teachers will receive the most Valentine's Day cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, and then, sweethearts.
- Children ages 6 to 10 exchange more than 650 million Valentine's cards with teachers, classmates, and family members.
- Wearing a wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand dates back to ancient Egypt, where it was believed that the vein of love ran from this finger directly to the heart.
- The red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
- The Taj Mahal in India, was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan as a memorial to his wife. Work on the Taj Mahal began in 1634 and continued for almost 22 years and required the labor of 20,000 workers from all over India and Central Asia.