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Valentine's Day

When is Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 14th February each year.

Valentine's Day - Hearts

What is Valentine’s Day?

On Valentine’s Day lovers exchange cards and gifts and celebrate with a romantic meal at a restaurant or pub or perhaps a cosy night at home, watching a film or sharing a home-cooked dinner. It’s a day of anonymous messages of love, red roses, doves, flowers and chocolates.

Today’s customs have evolved from an age-old tradition which began with handwritten valentine messages. The earliest surviving letters in English were written in 1477 by Margery Brewes to her future husband John Paston. Margery wrote:

‘Right reverend and worshipful, and my right well-beloved Valentine, I recommend myself to you full heartily, desiring to hear of your welfare, which I beseech Almighty God long to preserve unto his pleasure and your heart’s desire. And if it pleases you to hear of my welfare, I am not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall be, until I hear from you.’

By the early 1800s, Valentine’s Day was becoming more commercial. Aspiring Valentines could buy printed cards and send sentimental verses copied from the handbook, The Young Man's Valentine Writer. Cards became more and more elaborate, prettily decorated with lace and ribbon.

Despite the high cost of postage 60,000 valentine cards were posted in 1835. Six years later, in the February after the introduction of the Penny Black stamp and the reduction in the price of postage, the number of cards sent by post increased to 400,000.

In 1868, innovative chocolatiers at Cadbury created a special Valentine’s Day box of chocolates in the shape of a heart.

Today we spend millions of pounds each year on cards, flowers, gifts, chocolates and romantic treats for our Valentines.

Valentine's Day - Roses

Why is Valentine’s Day on 14th February?

14th February is the date of the death of Saint Valentine. But who was Saint Valentine? And why was he chosen as the patron saint of lovers? It’s all a bit of a mystery and, nobody really knows the answer.

There were many saints named Valentine. The two top contenders to be the Saint Valentine both lived in the third century. One was a Roman priest and the other was Bishop of Terni in Italy. They both died on 14 February and both were buried along the Via Flaminia, but in different years and different places. It’s possible that the two Saint Valentines might even be one single saint whose story diverged as it was passed down through the centuries. Although medieval legends tell of the miracles these two saints may have performed, neither of them has any obvious connection with romantic love.

When was Valentine’s Day first celebrated?

The first evidence of Valentine’s Day being linked with romantic love is found in Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules, which he wrote in 1382. In this poem the birds come together in a parliament of fowls to choose their mates on Saint Valentine’s Day.

The earliest known valentine message was sent by the Duke of Orléans to his wife while he was detained in the Tower of London in 1415. In his poem, written in French, he addresses her as ‘my very sweet Valentine.’

Some say Valentine’s Day goes back even further to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia which was celebrated in mid-February. However, there is no evidence to support this claim.

Valentine's Day - Romance

Interesting facts about Valentine’s Day

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