by Sarah Halfpenny
The sale of cards, gifts, flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day has turned it into a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide. But it wasn’t always this way! Read on to discover more about this day of love …
1. Putting it all on the line for love!
According to legend, Saint Valentine – a 3rd-century Roman martyr – was imprisoned and executed for secretly marrying couples in love, defying the Roman Emperor’s ban on marriage. The Catholic Church later declared 14th February as Saint Valentine’s feast day, and the tradition of celebrating love and affection on this day began to spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.
2. More than just romance!
Some countries, like Finland and Estonia, celebrate Friendship Day on 14th February. The day is dedicated to celebrating the bond between friends and recognising the importance of platonic love and companionship. People exchange gifts and cards, spend time with their friends, and attend events and parties to mark the occasion. This shift in focus allows people who may not be in romantic relationships to still take part in the festivities and feel included in the celebration.
3. Roses are red (and plentiful!)
In the United States alone, more than 250 million roses are sold on Valentine’s Day. Since roses don’t grow in the colder February temperatures in the US, many countries including Kenya, Columbia and Ecuador export them to meet the demand.
4. Who wrote it first?
The first recorded Valentine’s letter was written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. This letter has become a symbol of the timelessness of love and the enduring bond between partners, even in the face of separation and adversity, and is considered an historic milestone in the celebration of Valentine’s Day.
5. A ‘sweet’ Japanese tradition
In Japan, it is customary for women to give chocolates to men as a sign of love and affection on 14th February. There are two types of chocolates that women give: ‘giri-choco’ for colleagues or acquaintances, and ‘honmei-choco’, given to someone for whom the giver has romantic feelings. On 14th March, men return the gesture on ‘White Day’, giving white chocolate or other gifts to the women who gave them Valentine’s Day chocolates. This tradition creates a reciprocal exchange of love and affection between men and women, and has become a widely recognised and celebrated aspect of Japanese culture.