Feb 14 2011

What are the origins/history of Valentine’s Day?

Category: Holidays


There are several different versions related to the history and origin of Valentine’s Day, however most are just speculation and cannot be confirmed. What we do know is that Valentine’s Day contains traces of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. Pope Gelasius declared February 14, St. Valentine’s Day around 498 A.D. and valentine greetings were popular as far back as the middle ages.

The oldest known written valentine, still in existence today, was a poem written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection at the British Library in London.

In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to gain popularity around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. This tradition was soon adopted by settlers in the American colonies. Eventually, printed cards replaced written letters and improvements in printing technology as well as cheaper postage rates allowed the Valentine’s Day tradition to amplify its popularity in society.

In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year

Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

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