The strange history of Valentine’s Day: how and why we celebrate love

08 Feb 2024 - Category: Blog /
valentines day

You may have met the love of your life, or you may be single, but Valentine’s Day is a reason to celebrate love in all its forms. Are you planning a romantic day with your long-term partner or a party with family and friends? It might even be an excuse to treat yourself to something special.

Whatever your situation, we’re here to give you the run-down on everything Valentine-related. In this article you’ll learn about the following:

  • When is Valentine’s Day celebrated?
  • Who was St. Valentine and who invented Valentine’s Day?
  • A short history of Valentine’s Day
  • Valentine’s Day today
  • 8 Valentine’s Day facts
  • Perfect gifts for Valentine’s Day

So, let’s get cozy and learn about this romantic holiday.

When is Valentine’s Day celebrated?

Valentine’s Day is celebrated every year on February 14th. At least a few weeks before February 14th you will see Valentine’s Day-themed items appearing in shops on your high street as people get ready to celebrate with their loved ones.

It is one of the biggest commercial holidays in the world. But, have you ever stopped and asked yourself: Why do we celebrate it?

Who was St. Valentine and who invented Valentine’s Day?

The internet is full of ideas about why we celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s most commonly thought to be named after Saint Valentine, dating back as early as the 5th century. However, this is also quite complicated as there were quite a few different saints named St. Valentines.

To make it even more confusing, none of them were associated with romance - although some did seem to be responsible for performing secret marriages.

Some people also think Valentine’s Day might date back to a rather risqué Roman holiday called Lupercalia. Lupercalia was celebrated on February 15th and possibly involved women writing their names on clay tablets that were drawn by men at random.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Valentine’s Day

Our modern-day celebrations are quite different. The romantic Valentine’s Day that we now know is much more likely to have originated in the Middle Ages (also known as the Dark Ages) with the British poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.

Long story short: Chaucer was the first person to link romance to Saint Valentine’s Day. In the late 14th century, he wrote a poem, called Parliament of Fowls that includes the line:

This was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird came there to choose his mate.

Romantic, right?

The idea of romance between knights and noble ladies was becoming a theme. In the 1400s it became normal for the knights to write (often tragic) love poems for the lady they were in love with.

It wasn’t until 1537, when King Henry VIII declared February 14th a holiday that it officially became known as Valentine’s Day.

A short history of Valentine’s Day

The word valentine started becoming popular as a way of describing a lover in the 15th century. But it became popular in the 18th century when paper Valentine’s Cards started to be mass-produced. It was then that Valentine’s Day as we know it was born. The commercial side of Valentine’s Day came to the forefront and many businesses recognized the value of producing novel products that could be given as gifts to loved ones.

While the day is mainly associated with positive feelings, in 1929 in Chicago, a gang, organized by Al Capone killed seven men on February 14th. It became known as The Valentine’s Day Massacre and was a huge part of America’s Prohibition history.

Valentine’s Day today

What gift will you get for your partner this year? Traditionally, couples exchange cards, flowers, and chocolates on Valentine’s Day. And in the evening you’ll have a romantic meal and celebrate your love for one another.

Over the years the whole experience has become a lot more commercial. For example, in the UK every year the total amount of money spent on Valentine’s Day is around £1 billion. The good news is that it doesn't have to be this commercial enterprise. It can be whatever you want it to be.

If you’re happily partnered up, it can be a great excuse to spend some quality time together, doing something different. Alternatively, if you’re single, maybe it’s a good opportunity to get involved in the Galentine’s spin-off and celebrate your female friends. Or you could treat yourself to a day of self-love!

Another option is to simply share your appreciation with family members, and colleagues, or maybe spend time with your pets.

8 Valentine’s Day Facts

  • 10% of all marriage proposals happen on the 14th of February
  • Oliver Cromwell banned Valentine’s Day celebrations in 1653. In 1660, Charles II took the throne and revived it.
  • Pet owners in the UK spend £200m on Valentine’s gifts for their furry friends
  • Every year around 25m Valentine’s cards are sent in the UK.
  • The tradition of giving flowers to your loved ones on Valentine’s Day can be traced back to the 17th when King Charles II of Sweden learned about the language of flowers on a trip to Persia and introduced the tradition to Europeans.
  • People spend more on jewelry gifts than on any other type of gifts on Valentine’s Day
  • There is an official Valentine’s Day alternative for single people known as the International Quirkyalone Day. It isn’t anti-Valentine’s. It is instead a day to celebrate self-love and those valuable platonic relationships.
  • The first Valentine was written from a prison. Charles, Duke of Orleans wrote a love letter to his wife while captured at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. He remained in prison for more than 20 years and never got to see the reaction to his Valentine’s poem.

Perfect Gifts for Valentine’s Day

Do you want to surprise your loved one with a gift or a gesture? Here are some of our top ideas.

  • Create a photobook of some of your favorite memories
  • Visit English Heritage for some Valentine’s Day ideas and getaway adventures
  • Search for local businesses that you can support during this time and buy your loved one something unique
  • Check out some Valentine’s Day recipes, so you can make a romantic meal for your loved ones

Use Small World

If you want your loved ones to be able to celebrate Valentine’s Day in style, you might want to send money back home. You can do this easily with Small World.

Small World is an international money transfer service that helps millions of people transfer money internationally. We have several money transfer services including bank deposit, cash card reload, mobile wallet, cash pickup, and home delivery.

Register for free on our website or download the App, select the service you prefer, and start supporting your loved ones with Small World.

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