Valentine’s Day comes around every February and is a time for bestowing our loved ones with gifts, cards, and flowers as a way of showing our affection. It has become a key date in the calendars of retailers and florists and makes sure that restaurants are packed and Paris is full of smitten couples, but why do we use February 14th to celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day dates back to 500 AD and is named after one or a number of Christian martyrs named Valentine. It was established by Pope Gelasius but wasn’t associated with romantic love until the times of Geoffrey Chaucer in the Middle Ages.
Mentions of Valentine’s Day also appear throughout the Medieval period and a “Court of High Love” was established in Paris on February 14th, 1400 with the rather unromantic job of dealing with love contracts and betrayals. It is also mentioned in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and continued to be marked as a religious festival until it’s relegation in 1969 due to very little being known about the original St Valentine apart from his place of burial.
In modern times, Valentine’s Day has exploded in popularity to become one of the most lucrative days of the year for retailers, and the monetization of the event can be traced back to 1797 when printers began composing sentimental verses for those people who could not come up with their own. Valentine’s Day was reinvented in the 1840s when mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold in the United States. It is the dawn of the printing press that has launched the event into the phenomenon it is today, and since the 19th century, handwritten notes have been replaced by mass-produced greetings cards.
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