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The History of Valentine's Day
Today, Valentine's Day is widely recognized as a holiday for romance and for showering loved ones with gifts such as flowers with candy and jewelry. As we approach Valentine’s Day we should remember, it didn't originate that way. When studying the history of Valentine’s Day, you may be surprised to discover its darker roots. In ancient Rome, people observed a holiday to honor Juno, the Queen of the Roman Gods & Goddesses, who was also regarded as Goddess of Women and Marriage on February 14th. On this day, the names of young Roman women were written on paper, and young men would draw out a name and be paired with the girl for the rest of the festival; often they would fall in love and later marry. The next day on February 15th started the fertility festival called Feast of Lupercalia.
Valentine's Day Flowers Meaning
Valentine's Day facts and history revolve mostly around one emperor and Saint Valentine. During Emperor Claudius II's reign, he canceled all marriages throughout Rome in order force the men who didn’t want to leave their wives and families to enlist in the army. A priest named Valentine defied him by marrying couples in secret. Priest Valentine was beaten and put to death on February 14, approximately 270AD. After his death, Valentine was named a saint, and then around 498AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day to honor the martyr. In present day, Valentine's Day honors the traditions of love, especially romantic love. Current-day celebrations include giving gifts of chocolates and flowers, exchanging greeting cards and spending a romantic evening with your significant other. It's very interesting to learn the origins of such a loving holiday, originally birthed from war, secret rendezvous, blood, and murder; or treason depending on your own point of view. It's from a mixture of these stories that we've gained our beloved Valentine's Day symbols. It's from all of this that we begin to discover more about the history of flowers as gifts.
Full Valentines Day History List Below.
Fun Valentine's Day Facts:
- • The expression "to wear your heart on your sleeve" comes from the tradition of men wearing slips of paper with their beloved’s name on it to their shirt sleeve
- • King Henry VII of England officially declared the St. Valentine's Day a holiday in 1537
- • Red roses were thought to be the favorite flower of Venus, the Goddess of Love
- • Approximately 110 million roses (typically red) are sold & delivered in a 3-day period around Valentine’s Day
- • In the late 1800s, Richard Cadbury introduced the first box of chocolates
- • 73% of people who buy Valentine's Day flowers are men and 27% are women
- • Roughly 190 million cards are sent every year in the U.S., excluding those sent by schoolchildren. If you include cards from children, the total number reaches 1 billion and teachers become the largest group of recipients.
- • France's Duke of Orléans sent the first known Valentine's card to his wife in 1415
- • Esther Howland sold the first U.S. mass-produced Valentine's Day cards in 1847
- • Sending Valentine's cards used to only be associated with couples but now extends to family, friends, co-workers, etc.
- • Most popular gifts exchanged between lovers include chocolate flowers (typically roses), teddy bears and sometimes jewelry
- • Traditionally, couples will go out for a romantic evening together, but other emerging traditions include Valentine's Day balls and couples-only or singles-only parties
More Valentine’s Day facts below.
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Valentine symbols vary by culture, geographic location, and age. The romance symbols we will discuss here are, for the most part, shared by the public no matter the country. This Valentine's Day history facts are sourced from history we know from Spain, Britain, and from the poor to the rich attending court.
Traditional Symbols of Valentine's Day
- • Cupid
- • Doves
- • Hearts
- • Red Roses
Not surprisingly Cupid is a traditional favorite love symbol for many for Valentine’s Day. Though he's thought of now as a cute flying baby with bow and arrow, Cupid's origins go back to Greek mythology. Cupid, the god of desire and love, would pierce someone with his arrow to control their affections. While this is thought of in present day as a romantic gesture that happens after someone has fallen in love already, that is not the case in how Cupid is depicted in history. The god of affection and desire was a mischievous huntsman indeed, piercing individuals with his love arrows to create affections where they were not only unwarranted, but also entirely unwanted. Still, he survives the test of time through our idealistic perception of him on Valentine's Day.
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When viewing art depicting Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, it's very common to see her with doves. This is part of the reason that doves are viewed as romantic symbols of love. Doves are typically white, and not unlike white flowers, they are seen as something innocent and pure. Appearing in folklore, places of worship, and even military buildings; this icon is utilized as a love symbol by many. Dove gifts and dove bird gift sets continue to be sold not only for Valentine's Day, but also for Christmas. Throughout time doves have moved from Greek goddess pets to symbols of love between couples, and are now even gifted amongst relatives and friends as a sign of lasting love or friendship between any two people.
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Valentine’s Day symbols were and remain very important for the holiday too. There actually is no clear explanation that can state with certainty why the heart has become a famous valentine’s day symbol though. It's believed to be a result from various points of interest. The heart resembles a fertility plant used by the Greeks that is heart shaped. The heart as we know it is also referred to by writers of the time. They wrote about the pangs of love, and associated it with the idealistic heart symbol, which of course looks nothing like a real heart. Also used as a symbol during certain church and worship ceremonies, this romance symbol was used as an image for both romantic and non-romantic love. Whether it's mimicked from the silphium seed or referenced by others from works of poetry and writing, we may never know. We enjoy the heart shape symbolism every year for Valentines regardless of its exact meaning. The heart's romanticized shape is one of the most cherished Valentines symbols, resembling two halves meeting at the center and combining forever.
Why Red Roses?
We send flowers in general every year for Valentine's Day because our predecessors sent flowers. The Valentine’s Day flowers meaning has evolved over the years, but the purpose has remained close to its origins. Every time someone sent a message in the 1700's, it was expected to be sent with flowers. The purpose varied by area and its peoples. In London, there were even educational books on how to send the correct flowers correctly. The rose, much like our other affection symbols, was featured throughout Greek art too. In some circles the rose flower was beloved by certain artists who then used it in their paintings. Those created paintings featured romantic scenes or gestures that became widely popular for a large breadth of different people. Becoming known as the flower of love explains why when courting a young lady or sending a private message, one would send flowers along with it. In the Spanish courts of the highborn, chocolates were a special gift, and in the Elizabethan court, flowers like the rose were used for courtship.
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