Valentine’s Day: Then and Now

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Valentine’s Day is a holiday celebrated annually on 14th of February. Beginning as a Western Christian day honoring several martyred saints named Valentinus, and is known as both an important cultural commemoration and commercial celebration in many regions through the globe. However, Valentine’s Day is not a publicly recognized holiday by any government in the world.

The day itself became linked with love and romance by Geoffrey Chaucer during the 14th century. This was a time when courtship became a tradition amongst western nations. During the 1700s in the United Kingdom, the day grew into a day where couples demonstrated their love by gifting each other flowers, giving small gifts, and of course, sending cards (nicknamed “Valentines”). In Europe, St. Valentine’s Keys¬†were gifted to couples a token of “fancy” and “affection”. During this time, outlines of heart shapes, love-birds, and chirrups became commonplace. Since the 1800s, homemade cards have been replaced by commercially made, mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards.

17th Century courtship in Western Europe.

17th Century courtship in Western Europe.

Today, both Europe and the United States, billions of USD dollars are spent each year on Valentine’s Day. Friends, family members, and lovers spend money on love themed cards, fresh flowers, candies, chocolates, jewelry, and various other gifts. In the United Kingdom, an estimated 25 million cards are sent each year. This equates to 1 of 3 of the entire United Kingdom’s population. Across the pond in the United States, nearly 200 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year. Impressively, this makes up 62% of the country’s population. In fact, in 2013, the average amount spent per person is over $130, with an increase of about 6% each year.

Roses and chocolate are popular gifts to give.

Roses and chocolate are popular gifts to give.

From its origins as a celebration of Catholic saints to its modern transformation into a commercialized day of gift giving, Valentine’s Day is historically and contemporary significant.