Chances are you feel one of two ways about Valentine’s Day — you either love it, or your loathe it. For you, it’s either the time to shower that special someone with extravagant gestures or it’s a hyper-commercial day that doesn’t mean anything because you should show someone how much you love them every day.
If so, why don’t we agree to put the debate aside for a moment and get to know a little better the man who’s name to see on cards and teddy bears and chocolates but once a year :
- There isn’t just one St Valentine — there are in fact 14. The one who is traditionally celebrated on 14 February was martyred c.269.
- February 14 has been St. Valentine’s Day since 496 AD, although it didn’t become associated with expressions of love until nearly a millennia later.
- If legend is to be believed, the inspiration for sending a Valentine’s Day card came about when, on the eve of his death, Valentinus (Valentine) penned a farewell note to his jailer's daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine."
- St. Valentine isn’t only the patron Saint of love – he is also the patron of young people and happy marriages. So if you’re young, engaged and madly in love – he’s your man!
- Suggesting suitable ways to mark Valentine’s Day isn’t a new phenomenon — in 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man's Valentine Writer, which contained scores of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own.
- In the United States, the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were produced and sold in 1847.
- It is estimated that 190 million valentines are sent each year in the United States – that’s enough for 60 percent of the population to receive one.
- Richard Cadbury (founder of the world-famous brand) produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in the late 19th Century.
- Tempted to play it safe and send yourself a gift this year? You’re not alone — 15 percent of U.S. women send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day
- Man’s best friend? About 3 percent of pet owners will give Valentine's Day gifts to their pets!
So now you know — Valentine’s Day wasn’t always as commercial as it might be today, and it has undergone some transformations over the centuries. But it’s been around for 1500 years and there’s no signs of it going anywhere soon.
Happy St Valentine’s Day everyone!
Jack Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.